Cardinals cut ties with underperforming Wigginton
JUL 09, 2013 9:35p ET
"We're not in the lesson business," Matheny said. "We're in the winning business."
The Cardinals showed that the winning business can get expensive Tuesday when they ran out of patience with Ty Wigginton and released him with about $3.75 million still owed on a two-year deal he signed last off-season. Wigginton hit .158 (9 for 57) in limited playing time, with his last hit coming on June 7. He was consistent, however, collecting three hits in each of the first three months.
"It comes down to production," general manager John Mozeliak said. "This team is out here to perform and it's about winning. We have to put our best 25 out there."
For another example of the Cardinals' focus on winning now, catcher Yadier Molina was back in the lineup just two days after undergoing an MRI on his sore right knee. With the last-place Astros in town, the club could have taken a safer route and rested Molina for at least another day. But the club is confident that the inflammation that sidelined Molina over the weekend is not a serious issue.
"I'm not overly concerned about him medically," Mozeliak said. "The MRI is more of a relief stamp that there is nothing structurally wrong. The bigger thing is fatigue. As the summer heats up, we have to make sure we bank in those days of rest. The wear and tear on the body is something you have to be concerned about."
Molina, the N.L.'s leading hitter with a .344 average, has started a majors-most 79 games behind the plate. He is likely to get at least one more day off before the All-Star break.
"We've made it clear when it gets hot, which it is, we're going to be very careful," Matheny said. "There'll be more days (off) and that was going to happen regardless of whether his knee started bothering him."
To better equip Matheny to allow Molina more rest, the Cardinals called up veteran catcher Rob Johnson from Triple-A Memphis. Johnson, 30, was hitting .236 with seven homers in 59 games but his forte is handling pitchers. Johnson, a fourth-round pick of the Mariners in 2004, is with his fourth organization in the past four years.
His stay in St. Louis might not last long. "It's hard to imagine carrying three catchers for an extended period of time," Mozeliak said.
"We're going to give Mr. Johnson an opportunity to see what we can do," the GM added. "He earned the shot up here with what he was doing in Memphis. He was a great mentor for a lot of those young pitchers down there. It's nice that he can get rewarded."
The Cardinals signed Wigginton, 35, to provide right-handed power off the bench. While Matheny said he was impressed with Wigginton's clubhouse presence, the one-time All-Star was unable to find success in his limited at-bats. The emergence of lefty-hitting slugger Matt Adams contributed to Wigginton's lack of opportunities.
Johnson said he learned of his promotion Monday morning when he was returning from breakfast in downtown Memphis and ran into Redbirds manager Ron Warner. Johnson made the drive to St. Louis Tuesday morning. After spending part of the past six seasons in the majors, he was happy to get another chance.
"You never know when you are going to get back up here again," he said. "That I am back up here, I'm happy. I'm excited."
If Molina's knee proves as sound as the Cardinals believe, Johnson might not be in the majors for long. With right-handed power off the bench still high on the club's needs list, slugger Brock Peterson soon could be summoned. Peterson, 29, is hitting .308 with 20 homers in Memphis, numbers that earned him a spot in next week's Triple-A All-Star Game and home run hitting contest.
Wigginton becomes a free agent after turning down the Cardinals' offer to go to Triple-A. Any team that signs him will have to pay only the prorated portion of the minimum salary, with the Cardinals on the hook for the rest of his contract.
"Anytime where you give a multi-year contract and only get a quarter of the way through it is unfortunate," Mozeliak said.
Call it part of the price of being in the winning business.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.