The St. Louis Cardinals set their 25-man season-opening roster on Friday as they released left-handed reliever Ricardo Rincon. Apparently finding no takers in trade, the Cards ate the remaining $1.45 million owed the 35-year-old relief specialist for the 2007 season.
In fact, they pretty much consumed the entire two-year, $2.9 million contract given the then-free agent Rincon before the 2006 campaign. In the process, the deal goes down in the annals as one of lowest-return deals of the entire Walt Jocketty era.
Rincon is a ten-year major league veteran with a 3.58 ERA in 557 games with Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Oakland, plus the Cardinals, ever so briefly.
After arriving in 2006 spring camp late then leaving to pitch for his native Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, Rincon provided the Cards a total of only 3 1/3 innings of regular-season pitching before requiring season-ending surgery on his shoulder and elbow last May.
In other words, Rincon has likely has secured the Cardinals’ all-time club record for fewest innings-pitched per surgical procedure at 1.667.
Though his main claim to fame is perhaps that he once was traded straight up for Brian Giles, Rincon can still pitch. He posted a 2.16 ERA in nine spring innings for the Cards this past month and will surely be promptly snapped up by another organization at what will be a bargain price.
When Rincon comes to terms with another club for 2007, that signing team will only be responsible for a pro-rated portion of this year’s $360,000 minimum major league salary. The Cardinals remain on the hook to cover the rest.
That knowledge by other clubs, coupled with the need to complete their own rosters this weekend, probably thwarted the Cardinals’ attempt to secure even a low-level prospect in return for the lefty.
Faced with a roster decision to make before Sunday night’s season opener against the Mets, the Cards cut their losses with Rincon before leaving Jupiter, Florida for their Friday and Saturday games in Memphis.
As expected, the make-up of the Cardinals’ season-opening bullpen includes a pair of left-handers, Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson, who together make less in salary than Rincon. In addition, five right-handers complete the mix, a formula consistently followed by the Cardinals in the Tony La Russa-Dave Duncan years.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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