LAS VEGAS — A day after John Mozeliak described the competition awaiting former All-Star shortstop Paul DeJong for a possible utility role when he arrives at spring training, the Cardinals added to that contest with a trade.
As one of the final 40-man roster moves before the opening of the free-agent market, the Cardinals acquired infielder Jose Fermin from Cleveland for cash.
Fermin, 23, was considered the top defensive infielder in Cleveland's organization in 2019, according to Baseball America. He spent this past season at Class AAA Columbus, where he hit .215/.336/.322 with six home runs, 11 doubles, and 31 RBI in 90 games. Despite the low batting average, he sweetened that on-base percentage with nearly as many walks (42) as strikeouts (46) and also nine hit by pitches.
In 2019, he had a career season at the plate while hitting .293 with a .374 on-base percentage at Class AA.
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From Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Fermin signed in 2015 as a teenager with Cleveland. He made his debut with a U.S. affiliate in 2017, and this past year he spent 90 games at Cleveland's highest affiliate.
The trade allows the Cardinals to leap in front of other teams who would have made a bid for Fermin as a minor-league free agent. In exchange for cash, the Cardinals got his rights and put him on the 40-man roster ahead of him being declared a free agent.
The Cardinals also made two other roster moves official: moving Alex Reyes (shoulder) and Drew VerHagen (hip) off the 60-day injured list and onto the 40-man roster.
That brings the team's total to 38 players on the 40-man roster.
The Cardinals will not make any qualifying offers to their departing free agents. That deadline is Thursday. That is also the day that the market opens wide so that all teams can talk dollar figures with available free agents, and at that time time they'll know what players are attached to qualifying offers.
The Cardinals have 10 players who are arbitration eligible and must be tendered contracts before the next deadline coming this offseason. They expect to present contract offers to a majority of those players. The Cardinals are discussing internally the likelihood they'll not tender a contract to Alex Reyes and allow the right-hander, who has had his early career riddled by injury, to become a free agent.
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