Cardinals Swap Ryan for Minor League Pitcher

Shortstop Brendan Ryan joins the Seattle Mariners in return for A-Advanced RHP Maikel Cleto.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced Sunday afternoon that they have dealt infielder Brendan Ryan to the Seattle Mariners. In return, the Cardinals received minor league right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto.

Brendan Ryan was drafted by the Cardinals in 2003's 7th round
Ryan, St. Louis' starting shortstop much of the last two seasons, had been considered replaceable after a difficult season in 2010 on and off the field. Following the acquisition of former Chicago Cub Ryan Theriot, the Cardinals had made it very clear Ryan was available, stating they wanted to give the 28-year-old defensive standout the chance to start elsewhere. That is what the Mariners plan to do.

"In acquiring Brendan Ryan we have added a player who is athletic, has played multiple positions, has been an everyday Major League shortstop, and is playoff tested," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in a press release. "We look forward to Brendan's contributions as well as him competing for a starting position."

"I am excited to go where I am wanted," Ryan told B.J. Rains of FOXSportsMidwest.com after the trade was announced. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have a chip on my shoulder going into camp, for sure," Ryan said. "I'm out to prove that 2009 and some of those years where I did some things, that's me. Last year was the fluke."

Maikel Cleto (pronounced Michael CLAY-tow) is a 21-year old from the Dominican Republic. He spent last season with High Desert, the Mariners' A-Advanced affiliate in the California League, comparable to Palm Beach in the Cardinals' chain.

Cleto posted a 4-9 record with a 6.16 ERA in 23 appearances (21 starts), fanning a career-best 83 batters in 102 1/3 innings. He also issued 44 free passes and opposing hitters managed a collective .303 batting average against him.

Prospect watchers are mixed on Cleto. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein, who ranked Cleto his 13th-best prospect in Seattle's system last month, tweeted this 140-character analysis: "Cleto can bring it (upper-90s in short stints), but command and other pitches lag way behind."

His secondary offerings include a breaking ball and changeup, neither of which are refined. While Cleto's fastball has been clocked as high as 98 MPH, scouts have called it "flat." He led the Sally League with 25 wild pitches in 2008.

Cleto ranked 16th among Seattle prospects in 2009 according to Baseball America, but dropped off their team top 30 list this past year. BA's Jim Callis tweeted this: "Touches 100 mph but doesn't do much else & lacks command. RP. I'm not a big fan."

Prior to the 2010 season, John Sickels of minorleagueball.com graded Cleto a "C" score as his #20 prospect in the Mariners' system.

Maikel Cleto
This fall, Cleto stepped up in competition when asked to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas. There, against mostly Double-A and Triple-A hitters, he went 2-1 with a 7.91 ERA in six starts. His strikeout to walk ratio was an unimpressive 14 to 13 in 19 1/3 innings.

Despite Cleto having been a starter for the majority of his career, St. Louis sees him as a reliever ultimately.

"Cleto has a power arm that at times has reached 100 (mph)," said Cardinals' Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak via a Cardinals press release. "He's someone that could project as a back of the bullpen talent with additional development and experience."

Cleto was originally signed by the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent in 2006 and was traded to the Mariners in the three-team, 12-player deal for relief pitcher J.J. Putz, almost exactly two years ago on December 11, 2008.

With the move, the Cardinals' 40-man roster remains at 38 players. The Mariners had added Cleto to their 40-man roster in November to protect him prior to this past week's Rule 5 Draft.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.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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