Cardinals agree to one-year deal with Cedeno
Infielder expected to back up Furcal at shortstop, provide depth at second
ST. LOUIS -- Seeking a veteran middle infielder to provide depth and insurance behind shortstop Rafael Furcal, the Cardinals, after sifting through a thin free-agent market, have signed Ronny Cedeno to a one-year deal.
The free-agent acquisition was the third made by the Cardinals this offseason. Cedeno joins reliever Randy Choate and utility man Ty Wigginton as new additions to the 2013 roster. According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Cedeno will earn a base salary of $1.15 million with incentives that could push it as high as $2 million.
Cedeno is likely to jump Pete Kozma on the depth chart, putting him in position to play the shortstop position should Furcal have lingering health issues. Though the Cardinals have expressed satisfaction with Furcal's recovery from a season-ending elbow injury, no one is sure how his arm will respond when he returns to games this spring.
Of Cedeno's 615 career starts, 531 of them have come at short. He has a career .970 fielding percentage at the position.
Cedeno could also work himself into the mix for playing time at second base, a position the Cardinals plan to sort out during Spring Training. General manager John Mozeliak said a week ago that second base remains Daniel Descalso's "job to lose," but the Cardinals are leaving a window open for someone else to make a push for the job.
Cedeno is plenty familiar with playing in the National League Central. He was with the Cubs from 2005-08 and then joined the Pirates at the '09 Trade Deadline after a brief stint with Seattle. Cedeno remained in Pittsburgh through the 2011 season, after which he signed with the Mets.
The Pirates utilized Cedeno as an everyday shortstop, though Cedeno took on a backup role with New York last season. He hit .259 with a .332 on-base percentage in 186 plate appearances. Over his eight-year career, Cedeno has a .247 batting average and .290 on-base percentage.
Taveras, Wong, Wacha among Cards' 16 NRIs
ST. LOUIS -- Outfielder Oscar Taveras and a pair of recent first-round Draft picks -- second baseman Kolten Wong and right-hander Michael Wacha -- highlight the group of 16 non-roster players that the Cardinals have invited to participate in big league Spring Training.
Taveras, a 20-year-old who was just ranked by MLB.com as baseball's top outfield prospect heading into 2013, made periodic appearances in Grapefruit League games last spring, but this will be his first time participating in workouts alongside Major Leaguers. The reigning Texas League Player of the Year is likely to begin the season in Triple-A, though he could be ready to ascend to the Majors before the end of the year.
Wong, the team's top pick from the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and ranked by MLB.com as the No. 4 prospect in the Cardinals' system, is in a similar spot. He, too, is slotted in to begin 2013 with Triple-A Memphis but is not seen as needing too much more seasoning before ascending to St. Louis.
Wacha (ranked No. 7 in the Cards' system) is one of three highly touted young right-handers on this list of non-roster invitees. Joining him in big league camp will be Carlos Martinez (No. 3) and Seth Maness, the organization's pitcher of the year in 2012. All three ended the season with Double-A Springfield, which captured the Texas League championship.
During his stops in high-A and Double-A, Martinez, 21, posted a 2.93 ERA in 22 games. Maness went 14-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 27 starts. He led the Cardinals' farm system with 169 2/3 innings pitched.
The Cardinals kept Wacha's Minor League exposure brief since he pitched a full year at Texas A&M University before being drafted, but Wacha still dazzled in his first 21 professional innings. He struck out 40, while walking only four.
The full list of 16 non-roster invitees includes the following players:
Pitchers: John Gast, Tyler Lyons, Maness, Martinez, Wacha
Catchers: Adam Ehrlich, Rob Johnson, Jesus Montero, Audry Perez, Cody Stanley, J.R. Towles
Infielders: Greg Garcia, Starlin Rodriguez, Wong
Outfielders: Justin Christian, Taveras
Johnson, Christian and Towles all signed Minor League contracts with the Cardinals earlier this offseason.
The Cardinals' report date for pitchers and catchers is Feb. 11, with the first team workout in Jupiter, Fla., scheduled for the following day. The organization's first full-squad workout will take place on Feb. 15.
• In order to create space on the 40-man roster for Cedeno, the Cardinals designated left-hander Barret Browning for assignment. Browning made his Major League debut in 2012 and went on to appear in 22 games. He allowed 11 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings.
• Though the addition of Bengie Molina to the Cardinals' coaching staff has been known for several weeks, the Cardinals officially announced the hiring on Monday. Molina will serve as the team's assistant hitting coach to John Mabry, who was promoted to the top position after Mark McGwire's departure.
• The Cardinals have called a news conference for Tuesday, during which the organization will announce a multi-year partnership with St. Louis-based Mercy Health.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.