St. Louis Cardinals Lose Allen Cordoba to San Diego Padres in Rule 5 Draft


The Cardinals gambled by leaving Allen Cordoba off their 40-man roster this offseason. That gamble failed on Thursday, as the San Diego Padres took him in the Rule 5 Draft.

Last month, the St. Louis Cardinals were placed in a rather troubling roster bind. With only three free agents–Matt Holliday, Jordan Walden, and Jerome Williams–set to come off the books, they had to create as much 40-man roster space as possible for all the players that they needed to protect for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

They removed Mitch Harris, Alberto Rosario, Mike Ohlman, Dean Kiekhefer, Jeremy Hazelbaker, and Tim Cooney from the 40-man (with the latter three being claimed on waivers by other teams), and they added pitcher Rowan Wick, infielders Eliezer Alvarez, Edmundo Sosa, and Breyvic Valera, and outfielder Magneuris Sierra in order to protect them from Rule 5 eligibility. Unfortunately, that left pitchers Corey Littrell and Ryan Sherriff and shortstop Allen Cordoba out in the cold.

Apparently, if they were high on Cordoba, they probably should’ve added him to the 40-man, as he was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the San Diego Padres on Thursday. He was the third of three players selected by the Padres, who have now selected seven Rule 5 players over the past two years. One of those players was pitcher Luis Perdomo, who was snatched from the lower levels of the Cardinals’ system and went on to start 20 games for the Pads, posting a 4.30 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP after the All-Star break.

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The 21-year-old Cordoba is even more raw than Perdomo was, as he’s never played above rookie ball through four seasons in the Cardinals’ minor-league system. While he’s by no means a power hitter, Cordoba has put up very good numbers over four years between the Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, and Appalachian League: over 206 games, he’s posted a .309/.375/.395 slash line while stealing 52 bases.

2016 was a banner year for Cordoba as he played for the Johnson City Cardinals. In 220 plate appearances, Cordoba hit .362/.427/.495, setting career highs in every one of those categories as well as steals (22). The Cardinals had a logjam throughout the organization at shortstop, with prospects Juan Herrera (High-A and Double-A), Oscar Mercado (High-A), Sosa (Low-A and High-A), and Tommy Edman (Short-Season A) filling up the Cardinals’ lower minor-league teams. Still, it was somewhat of a mystery as to why Cordoba didn’t receive a promotion at any point during 2016.

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For what it’s worth, it seems as if leaving Cordoba exposed was the right decision. Even though the Padres non-tendered 15 percent of their 40-man roster and traded starting catcher Derek Norris last week, it’s going to be hard for a player like Cordoba with no experience above rookie ball to win a job on a team that already has talented young middle infielders such as Luis Sardinas, Cory Spangenberg, Ryan Schimpf, and Carlos Asuaje and seems primed to add others.

They’ll have to keep him on the 25-man roster all season, which they actually failed to do with four of their five Rule 5 picks last season (they ultimately kept Jabari Blash, but had to work out compensation with the Seattle Mariners after they sent him to the minors). While it’s rather easy for a non-contending club to keep a pitcher like Perdomo stashed in their bullpen, which the Padres did for much of the first half of 2016, it’s much harder to stash a Rule 5 position player.

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If the Cardinals had added Cordoba to their 40-man roster, his option clock would have begun immediately, and if he would have advanced one minor-league level per year, he would have just completed a season at High-A by the time he was out of options and had to be kept on the major-league roster. The Cardinals already have their backs against the wall in that regard with players like Sosa and Alvarez, so at some point they had to decide which ones they liked best and hope to keep all three. While that’s not the case for now, all three may ultimately end up back in the organization.