Cardinals Lose LHP Cooney Off Waivers, Protect Four To Avoid Rule 5 Draft

By Beth Chapman
Nov. 19, 2016

December marks the deadline to "protect" MLB players from being snatched away in the Rule 5 Draft. We are familiar with the First-Year Player Draft, which occurs each June. But, Rule 5 Draft is a bit more complex. A player signed at the age of 19, must have played professional ball for four years; and, signed at age 18, must have played for five. Per MLB ~ "A team that selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft pays $50,000 to the team from which he was selected. The receiving team must then keep the player on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days. If the player does not remain on the Major League roster, he is offered back to the team from which he was selected for $25,000. If his original team declines, the receiving team may waive the player."

Cardinals reliever Matt Bowman was a Rule 5 player, placed on the Opening Day roster at the last moment for the 2016 season.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals had news in abundance yesterday. LHP Tim Cooney had been claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians. Signing four players to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. 

Cooney, who spent 2016 with shoulder issue which began during Spring training and never made it back to the Majors. Late in the season, with Memphis Redbirds Triple-A, he had surgery for a diagnosed Bennett lesion and underwent a season-ending shoulder scope.  The stated diagnosis pertains to a calcium build-up in the posterior shoulder. Prior to, in 2015, Cooney was a solid lefty out of the Cardinals bullpen (2.78 ERA/88.2 IP in Triple-A) had six game starts, 1-0/3.16 ERA/3 HR/11 ER with 29 strikeouts. He still holds his rookie status. With the Cardinals having to make some tough decisions regarding the upcoming Rule 5 Draft and Cooney yet to begin rehab, he did not make the roster for 2017. Evidently, the Indians see enough potential in this young 25 year old hurler to take the chance. 

RULE 5 DRAFT ~ DECEMBER DEADLINE

"The Cardinals purchased the contracts of outfielder Magneuris Sierra, infielder Eliezer Alvarez, infielder Edmundo Sosa and right-handed reliever Rowan Wick on Friday. All four players were added to the team’s 40-man Major League roster, which currently stands at 40. Sierra, Sosa and Alvarez were all members of the Class A Peoria Chiefs in 2016, earning Midwest League All-Star selections, while Wick, a former catcher converted to pitcher, gained Florida State League All-Star honors at Palm Beach this past season." (stlsportspage.com)

LET'S LOOK AT THE FOUR

CF Magneuris Sierra, 20 years old and signed in 2012 by the Cardinals from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic at the age of 17. In 2016, with the Peoria Chiefs, he held a .307 BA/.335 OBP/3 HR/60 RBI. His average placed him ninth in Midwest League. He had 31 stolen bases (3rd) and put up 78 runs, best in the league. The left-handed hitter was the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year in 2014. 

IF "Edmundo Sosa, 20, teamed with Alvarez, 22, to form the keystone combo for the Chiefs in 2016The right-handed hitting Sosa batted .270 in 97 games, 88 with Peoria and nine with Palm Beach. The 5-11, 170-pound shortstop is a native of Panama City, Panama and signed with the Cardinals in July of 2012." 

2B Eliezer Alvarez, 22 years of age, signed by the Cardinals in 2011 from Santiago, Dominican Republic. A switch-hitter, he held a team-high .323 BA with a .404/.476/.879 slash line. He had 6 HR/39 RBI with 140 hits, 36 doubles which ranked second highest. His average was fourth in the MWL.  He played 116 games and he was second for his OBP, ranked third SLG and second OPS. He lead the MWL 36 stolen bases this season.

"RHP Rowan Wick, 24, combined to go 2-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 44 games (44.1 IP) between Palm Beach (A) and Springfield (AA), striking out 57 batters while allowing just one home run and a .186 opponent’s batting average. The 6-3, 220-pound native of North Vancouver, Canada, was drafted by the Cardinals in June of 2012 (9th round) and converted to pitching in 2015. He earned Florida State League All-Star honors at Palm Beach this year and earlier this month was a Rising Stars selection in the prospect laden Arizona Fall League where he has appeared in nine games for Glendale."

CARDINALS HAVE THE ADVANTAGE IN THIS MOVE

All four players have played professional ball for the past four seasons. In lieu of the above explanation, being minor league "contracts" purchased, once the season begins the foursome could essentially be returned the Cardinals affiliates with a $25,000 price tag ~ which still is a gain of same amount for the affiliates. "IF" I'm reading the above correctly. Unlike Matt Bowman's case, he would have been returned to the New York Mets. Bowman has proven to be an excellent Rule 5 player out of the Cardinals bullpen. He closed 2016 with a 3.46 ERA/67.2 IP with 52 SO; and, only issued 20 walks, which two were intentional. Definitely will see him back with the team for Spring training. And, in my opinion, he's earned his spot for 2017 without hesitation.    

Having to keep the four Rule 5 on the 25-man roster, and the Cardinals looking to sign a centerfielder via free agency or thru a trade - who would be removed from the roster to make room? A trade situation would take care of "space available". Signing a free agent? Option the following: Rookies RHP Michael Mayer (27.00 ERA) or LF Anthony Garcia, (on the 25-man roster, did not play in 2016). I would be hesitant to option LF Jose Martinez. He was only in 12 games; however, did slug out a  .438 BA with 7 Hits/1 RBI in 16 AB and added four runs. Time will tell as to how this scenario goes. The off-season is becoming very interesting, indeed.  

For those Cardinals fans who were all jazzed yesterday; and, me included, in being a bit confused ~ I have had time to absorb and rethink this move. I believe we are "saving" four solid future players for the Cardinals. If not on our field, they certainly may be of some appeal in a trade. Just sayin'.