St. Louis Cardinals Decline Option on Jonathan Broxton, Outright Pete Kozma, Ed Easley, Travis Tartamella


With the 2015 season officially over in Major League Baseball following the Kansas City Royals’ World Series victory on Sunday night, the St. Louis Cardinals officially got down to business in preparing for 2016 on Monday afternoon. The team announced its intention to decline the $9 million-dollar option for next season on righthanded relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton, while infielder Pete Kozma and catchers Ed Easley and Travis Tartamella were outrighted to Triple-A Memphis. In addition, the team officially announced its intention to pick up the 2016 option on lefthanded starting pitcher Jaime Garcia, a move that had been reported this past weekend.

There was already somewhat of an expectation that the 31-year-old Broxton would have his option for next year declined. When Broxton was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 31, the Brewers pitched in cash, which will now go towards his $2 million-dollar buyout cost. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder didn’t exactly do a whole lot to help his cause during his time in St. Louis; while he had an impressive 2.66 ERA over 23.2 innings with the Cards, he suffered three losses and had a concerning 26-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Of the six runners he inherited, three of them ended up scoring. Broxton’s postseason with the Cardinals was rather nondescript. His only earned run came when he gave up a homer to Dexter Fowler in Game 3 of the NLDS, but he had a 1.71 WHIP over three appearances and didn’t exactly provide a whole lot of relief aside from the perfect inning he delivered in a mop-up role during Game 2.

While the official transaction reads that Kozma, Easley, and Tartamella are being sent to the minors, the moves made Wednesday were made for the purpose of accelerating the process of releasing them into free agency. All three players are eligible for six-year minor-league free agency, so the Cardinals needed to outright them within five days of the conclusion of the World Series in order to be allowed to take them off the 40-man roster this offseason.

Kozma’s career in St. Louis seems to be coming to an unceremonious end after five seasons with the Cardinals. The 27-year-old infielder had some fantastic moments in a Cardinals uniform, most notably during the 2012 season. The former first-round pick was recalled to the majors on August 31 and proceeded to hit .333/.383/.569 with two homers and 14 RBI over 26 games. He got the nod as the Cardinals’ starting shortstop in the 2012 playoffs, and his two-run ninth-inning single allowed the Cardinals to make an incredible comeback in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals.

After Kozma’s incredible finish to the season, the Cardinals gave him the opportunity to be the starting shortstop in 2013, and he did not come close to reaching his previous of success, hitting .217/.275/.273 with one homer and 35 RBI. While he wasn’t great at the plate, it at least counts for something that Kozma stuck in the starting lineup for the entire season and was the starting shortstop for a Cardinals team that came within two games of winning the World Series.

More from Arch Authority

Though he was replaced by Jhonny Peralta prior to 2014, Kozma had a bit of a resurgence as a bench player late in the season and hit .304/.385/.435 over 26 plate appearances. That performance even earned him a start at second base in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS. Kozma had the worst season of his big-league career after making the roster in 2015, though, hitting for a dreadful .152 average while collecting no extra-base hits in 111 plate appearances for the season. He saw extremely infrequent action, and after a breakout campaign by lefthanded-hitting utility infielder Greg Garcia, it became quite apparent that Kozma’s time with the Cardinals was nearing an end. That was further evident when he was supplanted by Garcia and left off the postseason roster last month.

Easley and Tartamella are more realistic options than Kozma to return to the Cardinals organization on minor-league contracts, as they’ve spent most of their respective careers as depth players in the minors and could continue to serve similar roles for the Cardinals moving forward.  Easley, a former first-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, finally made his major-league debut this season with the Cardinals after nearly nine seasons in the minor leagues. He was one of the most infrequently-used Cardinals players in recent memory, as he spent 50 days on the major-league roster but saw action in just four games and received six at-bats, four of which came on the final day of the season.

More from St. Louis Cardinals

Tartamella had spent the large majority of his minor-league career as a glorified bullpen catcher, seeing spot action across multiple levels and hitting a career .197 while averaging 142 at-bats per season. When Yadier Molina went down in September with a hand injury that ended his regular season, Tartamella was recalled to the major leagues and collected two at-bats over three games. The 27-year-old Tartamella, who is younger, more polished defensively, and seemed to be more well-liked than Easley by manager Mike Matheny, is probably the more likely candidate of the two to return. He could be a nice fit as the backup at Memphis to Mike Ohlman, who is likely to move up after hitting .273/.356/.418 with 12 homers and 69 RBI for Double-A Springfield in 2014.

With Easley and Tartamella off of the 40-man roster, it should be interesting to see what the Cardinals do going forward with catcher Cody Stanley, who received an 80-game suspension in September following his second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. He’s on the restricted list right now and doesn’t count toward the 40-man roster limit, so there’s no real need to remove him now, but the question remains of whether the Cardinals have future plans for him considering the lack of reliability he’s shown by testing positive on multiple occasions. Stanley’s organizational role going forward could determine whether the Cardinals bring back either Easley or Tartamella this offseason.

The Cardinals needed to restore pitchers Carlos Martinez and Jordan Walden to the 40-man roster from the 60-day disabled list, but with Matt Belisle, Randy Choate, Jason Heyward, John Lackey, Mark Reynolds, and Carlos Villanueva set to hit free agency this weekend, the Cardinals will have 33 players on their 40-man roster. Several of those vacant slots will certainly be used to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft, so expect to see a few more players either outrighted or non-tendered in arbitration as the offseason goes on to create more 40-man space.

Next: Cardinals Pick Up Jaime Garcia's Option for 2016

Head over to our Cardinals section to check out more baseball content as the hot stove season heats up.