With all the excitement concerning the setting the roster upon opening the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium on Thursday, a couple of smaller transactions also occurred that may have been missed by many.
The St. Louis Cardinals claimed an outfielder, Joey Butler, off waivers from the Texas Rangers. With a full 40-man roster, the Cardinals made room for Butler’s addition by designating relief pitcher Victor Marte for assignment.
Butler, 27, was originally drafted by the Rangers in the 15th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft from the University of New Orleans. The right-handed hitter made his MLB debut in August, appearing in eight games with Texas. Though Butler was recalled in September, he last appeared on September 19 as the Rangers were in a dogfight for a wild card spot.
Butler’s MLB line was .333/.467/.500 over 15 plate appearances. The native of Pascagoula, Miss. had been designated for assignment on Monday, September 30.
Having spent most of the last three seasons at Triple-A Round Rock, Butler logged an aggregate career .300/.392/.468 line over 1,563 plate appearances at the level. Able to play all three outfield positions, Butler has primarily been a right fielder. Defensively, Butler is solid. In 2012, he made just one error, collected 12 assists and was named the Express team MVP.
Butler was a Pacific Coast League All-Star in 2011 (post-season), 2012 and 2013 and scored an invitation to major league camp this spring as a non-roster player. He had also been a Texas League All-Star with Frisco in 2010 and played in the Arizona Fall League with Surprise that autumn.
The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is a veteran of winter ball play internationally. Last winter, Butler suited up for the Venados de Mazatlan of the Mexican Pacific League after competing for Navegantes del Magallanes in Venezuela during 2011-12.
I expect Butler to serve as a veteran leader with Memphis next season, perhaps taking part of the role of free agents-to-be Chad Huffman, Jamie Romak and Justin Christian. Being on the 40-man roster makes Butler more appealing to be called up to St. Louis if an emergency occurs, much like the role of Adron Chambers in recent seasons.
Other outfielders likely to compete for jobs with the Redbirds next season include prospects James Ramsey, Stephen Piscotty, Tommy Pham and Mike O’Neill. The group could perhaps include Oscar Taveras as well, if the organization’s top prospect proves to not be initially ready for St. Louis coming off foot surgery.
It seems likely that Marte’s time in the Cardinals system has come to an end. The soon-to-be 33-year-old was a stop-gap addition to a depleted Memphis bullpen in April 2011 and ended up lasting three seasons in the organization.
Prior to 2013, Marte was a dependable closer for the Triple-A club, re-writing the Redbirds’ single-season (31 in 2011) and all-time records (45) for saves. Of course, setting any career mark on a minor league club is a two-edged sword.
In this case, Marte could not translate his Triple-A success to the majors. He moved onto the 40-man one day into the 2012 campaign when reliever Scott Linebrink was injured. The right-hander had an extended trial of 48 appearances with St. Louis that season, but pitched in just four major league contests in 2013. His overall ERA with the Cards was 4.98 to go with 38 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43 1/3 frames.
This year with Memphis, Marte struggled, losing his ninth-inning job en route to a showing much like his unsatisfying results in St. Louis. He posted a 4.94 ERA with the Redbirds, fanning 55 but issuing 27 free passes in 54 2/3 Pacific Coast League innings.
Marte finished the season and his time in the organization on Memphis’ disabled list as he was not recalled to St. Louis in September.
Likely, Marte will not be claimed off waivers. He is out of minor league options and has surely not proven he can stick in the bigs. The Dominican native will be eligible for free agency and it would be very surprising if he does not take that route.
To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and all of the minor leaguers in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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