On Sunday, the Kansas City Royals announced they have claimed right-handed pitcher Maikel Cleto off outright waivers from the St. Louis Cardinals and optioned him to Triple-A Omaha.
Though just 24 years of age, the Dominican native was in the Cardinals organization for almost 2 ½ seasons, all on the 40-man roster. Cleto had been elevated to the 40-man by Seattle prior to trading him to St. Louis for Brendan Ryan in December 2010.
In other words, 2013 is Cleto’s final option season. Whether with St. Louis or somewhere else, he will either have to prove he is ready for the majors or disappear from any organization’s 40-man roster by next opening day.
Some postulated that the Cardinals moved Cleto to make a spot for recently-demoted Tyler Lyons in Triple-A Memphis’ rotation. In fact, that could be accomplished without risking losing Cleto via waivers simply by a shift to the bullpen. Instead, it seems to me that the Cardinals came to the conclusion that Cleto did not have a clear major league future.
But this post really is not about Cleto, he of the upper-90’s fastball and fleeting control. It is not about Eduardo Sanchez, to whom the same thing happened last month. It is not about Chuckie Fick or Adam Ottavino, lost via waivers last season or Blake King and Andrew Brown, among Cardinals claimed by other organizations in 2011.
It is about a Cardinals organization with a number of very promising prospects nearing the majors who are pushing earlier prospects, now marginal major league suspects, out of the picture.
Though the Cardinals did not immediately put a replacement player for Cleto on their 40-man roster, there are certainly candidates available when the next need arises in St. Louis.
Sure, Cleto could become a star with Kansas City, but that seems unlikely. Even if he gets straightened out and turns into a good middle reliever like Ottavino has become this season for Colorado, the Cardinals have others equally suited for that role and with greater roster flexibility in the future.
For the overall health of a prosperous organization, this kind of move is a good thing.