St. Louis Cardinals Outright Mitch Harris, Alberto Rosario, Mike Ohlman

Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Alberto Rosario (68) looks on at the batting cage before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Alberto Rosario (68) looks on at the batting cage before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cardinals began the process of trimming the 40-man roster on Thursday.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Thursday afternoon that they’ve outrighted three players–righthanded pitcher Mitch Harris and catchers Alberto Rosario and Mike Ohlman–to Triple-A Memphis. While it’s the first time that all three players have been outrighted off the 40-man roster, meaning that they’re technically “forced” to stay within the organization, Rosario and Ohlman have played more than six minor-league seasons and thus are entitled to become minor-league free agents this winter.

Harris is the most notable of the names, perhaps more for his off-field accomplishments than what he did on a big-league mound. Harris is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and he carried out active duty in the Navy from 2008-13, achieving the rank of Lieutenant while participating in missions in more than 30 countries. After finally getting clearance to join the Cardinals’ system in 2013, Harris made it to the big leagues in 2015 and pitched in 26 games, posting a 3.67 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP in 27 innings.

This spring, he experienced arm discomfort and was sidelined during spring training. After several months of inactivity, Harris chose to undergo a Tommy John-like procedure in late June. Since his elbow ligament was repaired rather than replaced, though, he’s expected to be ready for spring training next year. With that said, Harris turns 31 years old next month, so it’s fair to wonder how much he’s got left in the tank.

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Like Harris, Rosario reached the majors at the age of 29, though he spent much more time in the minors than his pitching counterpart. The catcher bounced around the minor leagues for 10 years, playing in the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Cardinals organizations before being called up to serve as the Cardinals’ backup in July of this year.

Rosario was one of many backup catchers the Cardinals turned to this year, but much like Brayan Peña, Carson Kelly, and Eric Fryer, he saw very limited action. Despite spending nearly three months on the major-league roster, he received just 41 plate appearances, hitting .184/.225/.237 with two doubles.

It was quite evident after a start in Cincinnati on September 3 that Rosario was not in the Cardinals’ long-term plans. With Yadier Molina receiving a much-needed day of rest, Rosario got the start, and he came to the plate in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. He grounded out to second, killing a potential rally in a game the Cardinals were losing 2-1. They ended up losing 9-1, and it was one of their worst losses of the season.

The next day, Kelly was called up from the minors, and he immediately stepped into the backup catcher role. Rosario saw late action in three blowouts through the rest of the season (including an appearance at third base on September 26), but he did not start a game for the rest of the year.

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Ohlman, meanwhile, simply fell behind Kelly on the Cardinals’ catching depth chart and no longer had an obvious role within the organization. The 25-year-old actually had a pretty good season, hitting .287/.344/.434 with seven homers in 282 plate appearances split between Triple-A Memphis and Double-A Springfield.

He’s never been considered a great defender, though, and he’ll be out of options next spring after spending the past two seasons on the Cards’ 40-man roster, and the year before that on the Baltimore Orioles’ 40-man. Thus, if the Cardinals hadn’t outrighted him now, they’d likely have done so next year at the end of spring training.

With Peña and Kelly both expected to push for roles on the big-league bench next season, it’s highly unlikely that Rosario or Ohlman will have opportunities to play in the majors if they stay in the Cardinals organization. With that said, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Rosario, who was seen as a great mentor to Triple-A pitching staffs, re-sign with the organization and play at Memphis next season.

Next: Ranking Best Cardinals Prospects by Position in 2016

The Cardinals now have 42 players on the roster (38 who ended the year on the 40-man, plus four who ended on the 60-day disabled list). With a maximum of five players set to hit free agency this offseason (depending on whether Jaime Garcia’s option is picked up), the Cards almost certainly will have to perform more 40-man maintenance before the offseason kicks into full gear.