By Rob Rains
The Cardinals offered contracts to five of their six players eligible for arbitration before Wednesday night’s deadline, declining to offer a contract to reliever John Brebbia.
First baseman-outfielder Rangel Ravelo also was not offered a contract, the team announced. He was not eligible for arbitration.
Brebbia, 30, missed all of the abbreviated 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has begun throwing again at his off-season home in Atlanta and is on track to be able to pitch again at some point in 2021.
The Cardinals likely would have had to offer Brebbia a deal worth about $800,000 for a new contract but instead elected to let him become a free agent.
Brebbia appeared in a combined 161 games for the Cardinals between 2017 and 2019, posting a 3.14 ERA over 175 innings while recording 198 strikeouts.
The Cardinals could still re-sign Brebbia at a later date.
Brebbia’s status was affected not only because of the uncertainty of his return from the elbow operation but also because of the team’s stockpile of righthanded relievers.
Three of those pitchers, Jordan Hicks, Alex Reyes and John Gant, were also eligible for arbitration and were offered contracts for 2021. Hicks also did not pitch in 2020 after opting out of the season while he continued his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2019.
Among the other righthanded relievers under team control for 2021 are Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, Kodi Whitley, Junior Fernandez and Seth Elledge. Also still on the roster are Carlos Martinez, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford, all of whom could be either starters or relievers.
The other two players offered contracts for 2021 on Wednesday were Jack Flaherty and Harrison Bader. Gant is the only player in the group in his second year of arbitration, which likely will earn him a raise from the $1.3 million he was scheduled to earn if the 2020 season had not been shortened because of the pandemic.
Flaherty is also expected to receive a significant raise. There also is a possibility the Cardinals will begin negotiations with Flaherty on a long-term contract that would buy out his arbitration years and perhaps some of his free agent eligibility. That possibility is clouded, however, because of both the uncertainty of whether teams will be allowed to have fans in 2021 and the fact that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after 2021 and a new agreement could change the free agency rules.
Ravelo was set to sign a contract to play in Korea last winter but changed his mind when the team traded Jose Martinez to Tampa Bay. He saw only limited playing time this season, appearing in only 13 games.
The decision to not offer contracts to Brebbia and Ravelo opens two spots on the 40-man roster, perhaps giving the Cardinals a chance to pursue a player or two who were not offered contracts by their current teams on Wednesday. That group includes outfielder Eddie Rosario, allowed to become a free agent by the Twins. Rosario, a 29-year-old lefthanded hitter, has averaged 28 homers a season in his major-league career. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber and Martinez also were not offered a contract by the Cubs, David Dahl by the Rockies and Adam Duvall by the Braves.
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