Ryan became dispensable earlier this offseason when the Cardinals added shortstop Ryan Theriot.
This past season, Ryan delivered on defense—leading the league in several categories—but was a black hole on offense, batting just .223 with 11 steals. After acquiring Theriot, it just didn't make sense to keep Brendan around off of the bench.
Cleto, who is just 21 years old, spent last season in the California League and had a 6.16 ERA in 23 appearances, 21 of which were starts. He received an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, and has been known to hit 100 mph on radar guns.
Despite his struggles, the Cardinals believe he can be a successful pitcher.
"Cleto has a power arm that at times has reached 100," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "He's someone that could project as a back of the bullpen talent with additional development and experience."
Cleto, a Dominican native, struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings during the regular season and went 2-1 with a 7.91 ERA with the Peoria Javelinas in the AFL.
The worst case scenario for the Cardinals is that this turns into the reverse of the Ozzie Smith deal. The Cardinals acquired Smith, who one of the worst offensive players in baseball but a very good defender, from the Padres, and Smith went on to improve his offensive game to go along with a fantastic glove.
However, that's not the case with Ryan. His offensive issues have been called "uncoachable". He constantly fidgets at the plate, despite the insistence of hitting coach Mark McGwire. Smith had far more speed than Ryan, stealing 580 bases over his career. And, Ryan is two years older than Smith when he was dealt.
Simply, Ryan will probably continue to struggle, now that's he's been traded to the worst offensive team in baseball, with one of the least friendly parks in the league.
I'm glad that the Cardinals give Ryan a fresh start elsewhere, but I'm pretty surprised that the Mariners—who had the worst offense in baseball last year—decided to take a chance on a no-hit, good-glove 29-year old shortstop.
If Cleto develops into any kind of major league pitcher, this will be a successful deal for St. Louis.
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