St. Louis Cardinals Release Shane Robinson, Outright Keith Butler, Add Cody Stanley to 40-Man Roster


The St. Louis Cardinals made three moves to adjust the composition of their 40-man roster on Tuesday night, releasing outfielder Shane Robinson, outrighting reliever Keith Butler to the minors, and adding catcher Cody Stanley to the 40-man roster.

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Robinson, a favorite of manager Mike Matheny whose playing style could best be described as “scrappy”, was at high risk this offseason due to the fact that he was coming off a serious shoulder injury, arbitration eligible, and out of minor league options. The 30-year-old, who has hit .231/.303/.308 with five homers and 37 RBI over 402 at-bats spanning five big-league seasons, had fallen behind Randal Grichuk on the depth chart, and after the Cardinals acquired Jason Heyward on Monday, Robinson became even more expendable. Due to the Cardinals’ admiration of his high effort and positive clubhouse presence, it’s not completely out of the question that he could return on a minor-league contract, although it would probably be better for both sides to move on.

Frankly, it’s a mystery as to why Butler lasted this long on the 40-man roster. The 25-year-old righty, who has a 6.14 ERA and 1.409 WHIP over 18 big-league appearances, had Tommy John surgery early in the 2014 season. The Cardinals had multiple instances where they could have elected to outright him or release him and promptly re-sign him, but instead they elected to protect him from waivers and instead remove another player from the 40-man. With Butler’s removal from the roster, the Cardinals are left with newly-acquired Jordan Walden, closer Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, and Sam Tuivailala as righthanded relievers on the big-league roster.

The removal of Robinson and Butler from the 40-man roster gives the Cardinals more space to accommodate prospects who they wish to protect from eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft. Those players must be added to the 40-man roster by 11 PM Central Time this Thursday to be protected from the draft.

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One of those players who needed to be protected was Stanley, a 25-year-old lefthanded-hitting catcher who was taken in the fourth round in 2010 and is a bit undersized for his position at just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Despite experiencing a bumpy road in the Cardinals’ system which has included a multitude of injuries and a 50-game PED suspension, Stanley established himself as a probable future big-leaguer over the past year. After a somewhat underwhelming performance in his first go-round as an everyday player in 2013, hitting .244/.285/.337 with six homers and 45 RBI between High-A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield, Stanley came on the scene in 2014, having his best year as a pro while hitting .283/.340/.429 with 12 homers and 43 RBI over 385 at-bats spanning 103 games.

Stanley probably clinched himself a spot on the 40-man by having a great performance in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .292/.363/.375 with 12 RBI in 72 at-bats. He is considered a solid, if unspectacular, defender. His manager, Mike Shildt, told Brian Stull of this past August that Staley is “cleaner” as a defender and was “blocking really well”.

The addition of Stanley to the 40-man might signal that incumbent backup Tony Cruz’s future with the club is questionable. The 28-year-old, who is a .225 career hitter, lost his job as Yadier Molina’s primary backup to A.J. Pierzynski late in the 2014 season, and though he performed well when pressed into action in the NLCS, he hasn’t done much over his four seasons of big-league action to inspire confidence in him as a starter if Molina goes down like he has in the past two seasons.

For no obvious reason, the Cardinals also added career 28-year-old minor-leaguer Ed Easley to the 40-man earlier this offseason. It’s unusual for a club to carry four catchers on the 40-man roster at one time, especially a team that needs to restock their pitching supply as much as the Cardinals do. With Cruz eligible for arbitration, maybe the plan is for him to be non-tendered. That would leave Easley and Stanley to be part of a competition for the big-league backup job, which almost certainly would also have to include an established big-leaguer who would come to spring training on a minor-league contract.