The St. Louis Cardinals made Seth Maness a free agent on Friday when they declined to offer him arbitration.
In a move that we probably should have seen coming all along, the St. Louis Cardinals have decided not to offer arbitration to righthanded pitcher Seth Maness, making him a free agent immediately. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players after Friday’s move, leaving a spot open for the club to add another major-league free agent, or–if they so choose–to participate in next week’s Rule 5 Draft.
Over 244 relief appearances spanning four seasons, the 28-year-old Maness has a 3.19 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and .281 opponent batting average while striking out 152 and walking 45 in 237 1/3 innings. With that said, his value isn’t really quantifiable with traditional numbers, as he’s a ground-ball specialist that has often induced key double plays. During his time in the league (2013-16), Maness has been 16th among NL pitchers in ground-ball percentage (59.4%).
Maness had elbow ligament repair surgery in August, so he may miss the first couple months of the 2017 season; at the very best, he’ll still be working his way back during spring training.
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Thus, Maness probably doesn’t have a great chance to get a major-league deal with another club, especially since so many MLB front offices these days emphasize velocity and strikeouts among relievers. Maness, who tops out in the high 80s, doesn’t really fit that mold at all.
All of this is to say that it’d make a lot of sense for the Cardinals to bring Maness back on a minor-league deal, providing themselves some protection in case his elbow doesn’t heal properly while also conserving some 40-man roster space.
The Cardinals will be able to offer at least two 40-man spots to non-roster invitees come next spring, as Zach Duke and Tyler Lyons are both expected to begin the season on the 60-day DL but can’t be placed on that list until spring training.
Maness might need to work his way back in the minor leagues, but with the Cardinals’ bullpen depth being rather unproven–guys like Matt Bowman, Kendry Flores, John Gant, Zach Phillips, Miguel Socolovich, and Sam Tuivailala, among others will likely compete for a spot or two–it’s still quite easy to see how he could potentially fit into the mix next season.