SAN DIEGO — In the traditional ending to the winter meetings, the Cardinals snagged a “nontraditional” pick in the Rule 5 draft, though one with some classic Rule 5 traits.
A few months after trying to acquire right-hander Wilking Rodriguez from his Mexican team, the Cardinals plucked his rights from the Yankees’ minor-league system with the 25th pick in Wednesday’s Rule 5 draft. At 32, Rodriguez is one of the oldest Rule 5 selections in memory, and he has not played for a major-league team or an affiliate team since 2015. What he did do was overwhelm hitters this past season with something rather appealing to the Cardinals.
He throws strikes — often at 100 mph.
“Pitched really well this year in Mexico, like really well,” said Cardinals general manager Michael Girsch. “He was dominant. He’s totally a nontraditional Rule 5 pick, for sure. Throws upper 90s (mph), good cutter. We’ll give him a shot. See what happens. ... He’s got juice.”
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Rodriguez must remain on the Cardinals’ active roster or injured list for the entire season for them to complete ownership of his rights. If they decide he cannot make the big-league roster, the Cardinals must offer him back to the Yankees.
For Dos Laredos this past season, Rodriguez went 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 44⅔ innings. He struck out 43.2% of the batters he faced, and he walked only 13. Rodriguez mixes a tight cut fastball with his four-seam velocity, and he has a playable change-up, though his approach tends to be throw hard, harder, and then hardest. Midway through this past season, the Cardinals made a bid to sign him, but Dos Laredos declined.
“The team wanted to win,” Girsch said.
The Yankees signed Rodriguez immediately after the season ended but left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft.
Once a prospect in Tampa Bay’s system, Rodriguez made his major-league debut against the Cardinals in 2014 with the Kansas City Royals. In two big-league appearances totaling two innings, he has one strikeout, one hit and one walk.
The Cardinals filled up their openings on the minor-league side of the Rule 5 draft with four selections: catcher Jose Alvarez from Houston’s organization; right-hander Brandon Komar from San Diego’s organization; right-hander Jose Martinez from the Dodgers’ Class AA roster; and right-hander Ryan Shreve from Minnesota’s Low-A affiliate.
In the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Cardinals lost one player — infielder Evan Mendoza from the Class AA roster. San Diego selected him. The Cardinals’ 11th-round pick in 2017, Mendoza, 26, has proven to be a versatile fielder and a steady bat with a career .335 on-base percentage, but his power didn’t manifest. He’s been blocked at several positions.
Cards consider ads on jerseys
The Cardinals are in conversation with several brands interested in purchasing ad space on the team’s jersey, and it is possible, in 2023, that the classic Birds on the Bat look will have an ad patch on one of the jersey sleeves.
“More likely than not,” said Bill DeWitt III, the team’s president. “It needs to be a good fit. You want a brand that shares certain values that we also have as a team. We’ve been around a long time, have been good for a long time, and we intend to be around a long time. That’s the challenge.”
For the first time, Major League Baseball teams will be permitted in 2023 to have advertising on their jerseys, and two teams, San Diego and Boston, have already revealed a corporate partner for that new root of revenue. It’s expected to be a fruitful one considering teams will have ads on both home and away jerseys, and that location will get ample air time during games, arguably more than any other ad exposure.
The Padres were first to announce a deal with Motorola for a sleeve patch in 2023, and this past month, Boston introduced MassMutual as a “signature partner.” The company’s flag will be featured on the Red Sox’s jerseys. The Sports Business Journal reported MassMutual will pay $17 million to the Sox annually for a deal that includes advertising and signage at Fenway.
Mikolas set to join Team USA
The list of Cardinals playing in March’s World Baseball Classic continues to grow with starter Miles Mikolas expected to join Adam Wainwright in Team USA’s rotation. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have previously been announced as the team’s corner infielders.
Some international rosters have not yet been revealed, but the Cardinals could have a handful of other players leave camp to compete, including Tyler O’Neill (Canada), Giovanny Gallegos (Mexico) and Tommy Edman (South Korea). Willson Contreras, who is finalizing a five-year deal with the Cardinals in the coming days, is expected to be part of Venezuela’s team.
The international tournament, run by Major League Baseball, will take place during March. The championship game is in Miami on March 21.
John Mabry has joined the (unofficial) Cardinals reunion taking place on the Marlins coaching staff. Mabry, last with Kansas City, has been hired as Miami’s hitting coach, joining new manager Skip Schumaker and first base coach Jon Jay. ... A St. Louis kid who grew up reading baseball coverage in the pages of the Post-Dispatch, John Lowe joined the list of baseball writers with St. Louis ties to receive the BBWAA’s highest honor, a spot in the writers’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Career Excellence Award. The award was announced this week in San Diego, and Lowe will be honored in July in Cooperstown, New York. Lowe spent nearly three decades covering the Detroit Tigers for the Detroit Free Press and in the 1980s invented the pitching statistic quality starts. As a recipient of the Career Excellence Award, Lowe will appear at the Hall beside one of the writers he grew up reading, Post-Dispatch editor/columnist Bob Broeg, and one of his contemporaries, Post-Dispatch baseball writer Rick Hummel.