ST. LOUIS -- Signaling a shift in focus from this year to next, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak initiated his roster overhaul on Friday with a series of moves designed to address a problematic 'pen.
The Cardinals added four pitchers, including prospect Dakota Hudson, to their active roster ahead of this weekend's series against the Cubs, while also designating relievers Greg Holland and Tyler Lyons for assignment. There were nine moves made in all, and Mozeliak forecast that more would be coming.
"I still believe that this team has talent, but I do feel we have to sort through this roster to get it to where we feel it's getting back to that playoff caliber [club]," Mozeliak said. "Today was not a finality by any means. It was just a big change for our bullpen and how it looks. Between now and Tuesday at three in the afternoon, I think we're going to exhaust as many things as possible."
The Cardinals won't complete their roster reconstruction before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. But they'll seek to capitalize where they can -- with a long-term outlook.
"We're not trying to just put something on [the field] for the next two months," Mozeliak said. "All our deals would be looking at more longer-term solutions."
The Cardinals entered Friday in fourth place and nine games back in the National League Central. Five teams sit ahead of them in the NL Wild Card race.
Reconstructing the bullpen was an apt place to start, especially after its collective performance on the club's first road trip of the second half. During the 3-5 swing through Chicago and Cincinnati, Cardinals relievers surrendered 25 runs (23 earned) on 41 hits in 27 1/3 innings. Over the season, the 'pen ranks 25th in the Majors with a 4.72 ERA.
Four members of that unit lugged ERAs of 5.70 or higher. Only one (Luke Gregerson) remains.
Unable to get the multiyear deal he sought during the offseason, Holland agreed to a one-year, $14 million contract with the Cardinals on Opening Day. The Cardinals also forfeited the No. 59 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft to land the former closer. They did so thinking Holland, who had an NL-leading 41 saves for the Rockies in 2017, would anchor the back end of their bullpen.
But perhaps due in part to missing all of Spring Training, Holland stumbled out of the gate and never claimed the closer's job that the Cardinals were ready to hand him. Holland had a 9.45 ERA in 18 appearances when he went on the disabled list with a right hip impingement in late May. He made six scoreless appearances upon returning, but had since allowed 13 runs (eight earned) on 12 hits and seven walks in six innings.
Lyons wasn't any better. Projected to be a late-inning lefty, Lyons also spent time on the DL and struggled -- particularly against left-handed batters. Because Lyons was out of options, the Cardinals could not send him to the Minors.
"When you are trying to balance winning games and have an understanding of what you want to look like moving forward, at some point you just run out of time," said Mozeliak, who now has a seven-day window to try and trade Lyons and Holland.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
The Cardinals also placed lefty Brett Cecil on the 10-day disabled list with right foot inflammation on Friday. Mozeliak described this as a "chronic" issue that has been pestering Cecil since Spring Training. Cecil, who is signed through 2020, already missed six weeks of the season with a left shoulder strain.
Right-hander Sam Tuivailala, one of the more reliable relievers this year, is gone from the bullpen, too. The Cardinals dealt him to Seattle for right-hander Seth Elledge, who has been assigned to Double-A Springfield.
In Elledge, the Cardinals believe they have a fast-rising reliever who could be knocking on the big league door next season. Drafted out of college last summer, Elledge was ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Mariners' system, and now ranks No. 21 with St. Louis.
To replace these arms, the Cardinals have plugged their 'pen with new faces. Hudson, the club's fourth-ranked prospect, was removed from his start on Wednesday in the second inning so that he'd be available to the Cardinals in relief immediately. Triple-A Memphis manager Stubby Clapp handed Hudson a ball with a message -- "this is your call" -- on it as he sent him back to the dugout with a hug.
Hudson will be joined in the bullpen by Daniel Poncedeleon, who returns after throwing seven no-hit innings in his Major League debut on Monday, and lefty Tyler Webb, whom the Cardinals claimed off waivers last month. Austin Gomber will slide into a relief role, as well.
Gomber, Poncedeleon and Hudson all began the year in Memphis' rotation, along with John Gant and Jack Flaherty. All are now in St. Louis.
"The road we were going down just wasn't consistently working," interim manager Mike Shildt said. "Now we welcome these guys with a new opportunity to give us some different looks, to see if we can get this to a point where we can have that area of our team that we can count on."
• The Cardinals also recalled right-hander Luke Weaver on Friday, though that had been expected. Weaver was needed to start Friday's game.
• Carlos Martinez (right oblique strain) threw a bullpen session on Friday. If he responds well to the work, he'll return from the DL to start on Monday.
• Jedd Gyorko met with a specialist on Thursday to determine the cause of his recent dizziness. Shildt described it as a viral issue, though it was unclear whether Gyorko would be available off the bench Friday.
• Michael Wacha (left oblique strain) is set to resume throwing on Saturday. He'll need at least a month to rebuild the arm strength necessary to return as a starter.
• Adam Wainwright (right elbow inflammation) threw off the mound on Friday, and Dominic Leone (right upper arm nerve irritation) also threw a bullpen session earlier this week. The Cardinals have not revealed when either could be headed out on a Minor League rehab assignment.