The St. Louis Cardinals have signed left-handed pitcher Raul Valdes to a one-year minor league contract, reports Baseball America. MLB.com adds that Valdes has received a non-roster invitation to the Cardinals 2011 spring training camp. He had been outrighted off the New York Mets’ 40-man roster on November 4 and became a free agent.
Valdes is a native of Cuba who turns 33 years of age on the 27th of this month. He was originally signed by the Chicago Cubs in 2004 after defecting from the Cuban National Team. He spent two years as a starter in the Chicago organization, mostly in Triple-A, until his release in May 2006. Valdes pitched in independent ball the rest of the summer before signing with the Mets that October.
After one season in the Mets organization, Valdes became a baseball vagabond. In 2008 and 2009, he pitched in the Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican leagues before being invited to Mets 2010 spring training camp on loan from Tabasco of the Mexican League. His contract was purchased by New York and assigned to Triple-A Buffalo after he posted a 2.06 ERA in six Grapefruit League games.
As the 2010 season entered its final days, Valdes was pressed into a spot start for New York on October 2. He had been up and down between the majors and Triple-A at least three times, with his first call up and Major League debut on April 11. He collected his first MLB win on May 11.
In 38 games for the Mets, Valdes went 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA. He fanned 56 in 58 2/3 innings but also issued 27 walks and yielded seven home runs. Valdes made nine appearances including seven starts for Buffalo and posted a 3.00 ERA there.
Valdes pitched in four games against the Cardinals in 2010. He took his first MLB blown save on a Felipe Lopez seventh-inning grand slam on April 16 at Busch Stadium, but followed that with 3 1/3 innings of one-hit scoreless ball.
Currently appearing for Toros del Este in winter ball in the Dominican, Valdes has a 2-1 record with a 3.63 ERA in five games, including four starts. His strikeout to walk ratio is 25 to 6 in 22 1/3 innings. He is a veteran of winter play in the Dominican and Venezuela, having made the Caribbean Series All-Star Team in 2010 while pitching for the Dominicans.
The Cardinals aren’t getting a traditional LOOGY here. In fact, Valdes was very ineffective against left-handed hitters in the majors, as they torched him for a line of .330/.366/.625/.991 in 94 plate appearances. Against right-handed hitters, Valdes was solid, with slash stats of .216/.339/.331/.670 in 169 plate appearances.
It would appear that Valdes is being added for depth in Memphis. He could be asked to start for the Redbirds, effectively replacing free agent lefty Evan MacLane.
Memphis also has a relief need. Tyler Norrick is the only lefty currently slated to be a part of the Memphis bullpen, with Renyel Pinto having been released and Rich Rundles being a minor league free agent.
The major league club is continuing to search for a second lefty to join returning Trever Miller, as Dennys Reyes is not expected back in 2011.
With the signing, Valdes joins the group of Cardinals Rule 5 eligible players. It seems unlikely he will be selected in the December 9 draft since he has just settled for a minor league contract as a free agent.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Selected TCN content appears at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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