ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – The St. Louis Cardinals announced late Thursday night that they are promoting shortstop Masyn Winn to the big leagues, answering one of the few interesting questions that remained for the Cardinals in a disappointing 2023 campaign.
To make room for Winn on the active roster, the Cardinals placed outfielder Lars Nootbaar on the injured list with a lower abdomen injury that he suffered earlier this week. The 40-man roster still had room after the events preceding the MLB trade deadline, so no 40-man roster move was required to accommodate Winn’s addition.
The top prospect in the Cardinals farm system according to MLB Pipeline, Winn has posted a .288/.359/.474 batting line while smacking 18 home runs and stealing 17 bases for Triple-A Memphis this season. From his strides at the plate to his elite arm strength in the field, the 21-year-old has demonstrated a vast array of tools that have had Cardinals fans on the edge of their seats for weeks awaiting his inevitable promotion.
So why is it coming now? Well, the Cardinals promoted their second-round pick from the 2020 MLB Draft ahead of Friday’s game knowing that Winn will not exceed the threshold to maintain his rookie eligibility for 2024. As soon as a player spends more than 45 days on an MLB roster, his rookie eligibility is exhausted. So it’s no coincidence that, with exactly 45 days remaining in the 2023 MLB calendar, Winn joins the Cardinals Friday.
As another stipulation for keeping his rookie eligibility intact for next season, the Cardinals will also need to ensure Winn does not exceed 130 at-bats with St. Louis for the rest of the year. As a result, don’t be surprised to see Winn stationed regularly in the bottom third of the Cardinals’ batting order.
Why is it important for Winn to maintain rookie eligibility for next season? It’s more than simply a chance at some cool hardware for the player. The organization has the incentive to keep talented prospects like Winn in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award because of a measure in the updated collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association.
The Prospect Promotion Incentive awards a compensatory draft pick to a team if one of their players wins Rookie of the Year after qualifying under the measure’s guidelines. Essentially, if a Top 100 prospect is on his team’s active big-league roster for long enough to accrue a full year of service time during a season in which that player wins Rookie of the Year, the team gets a bonus draft pick.
The Seattle Mariners benefitted from this new rule after including Julio Rodriguez on their Opening Day roster in 2022. Rodriguez won the AL Rookie of the Year, which led to Seattle getting the 29th pick in this summer’s MLB Draft. It’s a hefty incentive that discourages the previously prevalent practice of service time manipulation for top prospects.
By waiting until Friday to bring Winn to the bigs, the Cardinals aren’t manipulating Winn’s service time in any meaningful way that impacts his eventual free agency. Whether they gave him the call on Friday or last week or in the middle of June, the years of team control the Cardinals have over Winn remains exactly the same.
If anything, the Prospect Promotion Incentive has encouraged the Cardinals to get an early look at Winn down the stretch run of a lost season. Waiting until late April 2024 to promote him in an effort to squeeze out an extra year of service time would be counterproductive if he turns out to be an elite MLB talent—under the new CBA, winners of the Rookie of the Year are awarded a full year of service time, regardless of how many days spent on their team’s active roster in that season.
So in a lost season, the Cardinals are looking to get Winn acclimated to life in the big leagues while still maintaining the notion of a potential Rookie of the Year bid for the talented shortstop in 2024.