Not long ago, the St. Louis Cardinals had big plans for outfielder Cody Haerther, having added our then-12th-ranked prospect in the Cards’ minor league system to their 40-man roster almost exactly 12 months ago.
A 2007 season ruined by injury and increased competition at the corner outfield positions at the upper levels of the organization perhaps along with changes in the Cardinals' minor league hierarchy seemingly changed everything for the 24-year-old.
In a transaction that has to be considered a major surprise, this week the Cardinals acted to remove Haerther from their 40-man roster. In doing so, they had to risk exposing the player by placing him on outright waivers, which are irrevocable. The Californian did not clear, instead being claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays. He now moves onto their 40-man roster.
As could be expected, the move was a shock to the popular outfielder. “The Cardinals called to tell me. When I found out, at first it was like my parents had told me my dog died,” Haerther explained to me late Friday afternoon.
Haerther spent a majority of his time with the Double-A Springfield Cardinals in each of the last three seasons, but never reached the Triple-A level with the organization.
Cody played in just 41 games this season due to a wrist injury and later surgery on the hamate bone in his right hand. He also missed time in 2004 due to a hairline fracture in his left leg.
The sixth-round pick in 2002 was drafted as a third baseman but later converted to the outfield. Overall, in five minor league seasons and 422 games in the Cardinals’ system, Haerther posted a .303/.363/474 line (BA/OBP/SLG).
He seems to have everything in proper perspective and is looking forward.
“You realize this is a business. The Cardinals didn’t have plans for me in the future, but the Blue Jays do, so it is a good situation,” Haerther said.
I asked Cody if he planned to make the Cardinals regret their decision. He quickly and emphatically agreed. “I plan on doing that. I promise you I plan on doing that,” Haerther said firmly in closing.
With this transaction, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster now stands at 35. Nine of them are outfielders, including recently-added Joe Mather, injured Juan Encarnacion and veteran So Taguchi, whose 2008 option was bought out by the club.
More moves will be coming from the organization between now and Tuesday’s deadline for submitting protected rosters for next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
But, even so, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals will be adding so many players that Haerther had to go now. Given there seems to be others still on the roster who could and should have been removed before Haerther and the reality that they have nothing to show for him makes Friday's move by the Cardinals all the more puzzling.
New Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak confirmed the organization’s thinking in this short comment upon my reaching him Saturday morning. “We need a few spots and we also have depth in the outfield.”
Understandably, the Blue Jays are pleased with their new acquisition. Tony LaCava, their assistant GM, spoke with “Inside the Dome”, our Scout.com Toronto affiliate, on Saturday.
“Cody has been on our radar the last couple years. He missed a lot of time this year [hamate bone] but scouts Jim D'aloia and Mike Berger were strong on him in 2006. Our scouts like his approach and he has history of success [career .300/.360/.470].
“We think he eventually can compete for a major league corner outfield spot,” said LaCava in closing.
That clearly summarizes the difference in opinion between the two organizations. Time will tell as to which one is correct.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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