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Former second-rounder Oscar Mercado, four others sign minor-league deals with Cardinals

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Nearly four years after he was dealt to Cleveland from St. Louis as a minor-leaguer, Oscar Mercado rejoined the Cardinals organization on Friday. Mercado — a second-round pick by the Cardinals in 2013 — was one of four players signed to a minor-league contract, the team announced.

Infielders Taylor Motter, Juniel Querecuto, left-hander Kenny Hernandez, and right-hander Logan Sawyer were also signed by St. Louis.

After making his MLB debut with Cleveland in 2019, Mercado, 27, batted .235 in 278 games in the majors. His most productive season came in his rookie year when he hit .269 with 15 home runs, and 25 doubles in 115 games.

Mercado was designated for assignment by the Guardians in June after he hit .208 in 54 games and was claimed by Philadelphia but appeared in one game for the Phillies. He was designated for assignment a second time and claimed by Cleveland in July. He ended the year with Cleveland’s Class AAA affiliate and hit .281 in 49 games.

Before he was traded in 2018, Mercado batted .287 and stole 38 bases for Class AA Springfield in 2017. He followed that with a .285/.351/.408 slash line and 21 stolen bases in 100 games for Class AAA Memphis and an earned reputation for solid defense in center field.

The Cardinals moved Mercado and outfielder Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay during the 2018 trade deadline in moves that ensured Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader — both rookies at the time —  would fill the outfield for St. Louis that season. O’Neill and Bader, the latter of whom was traded to the Yankees this past summer, eventually became Gold Glovers as Cardinals.

The Cardinals received outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres in the Mercado deal. Capel, 25, made his MLB debut with the Cardinals this past June, but was designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by Oakland — where he finished the regular season. Torres, 22, played in 32 games in the lower levels of the Cardinals’ farm system after being limited by injuries.

The 29-year-old Sawyer was a 29th-round pick by the Rockies in 2014. He joins the Cardinals after pitching the last season in the Frontier League — an independent baseball league with 16 teams spread across the midwest, northeast, and in eastern Canada. He gave up one run, which was unearned, and struck out 39 batters in 30 innings of relief for the Evansville Otters this past season. 

Hernandez — a 24-year-old David, Panama native — was signed by Arizona in 2015 at the age of 17. He’s reached as high as the Class AA level and pitched to a 3.90 ERA over 431 2/3 minor-league innings.

Since signing with Tampa Bay as an international free agent in 2009, Querecuto has played for four different organizations and appeared in the major leagues once, which came in 2016 for the Rays. He is a career .269 hitter in the minors.

Motter, 33, was a 17th-round pick by the Rays in 2011. A career .262 hitter in 11 MiLB seasons, Motter spent time in both Atlanta’s and Cincinnati’s minor-league systems this past season.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the legacy of Stan Musial (.331 career batting average!), the St. Louis Cardinals’ late legend, born this day in 1920. And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

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