ST. LOUIS -- Squeezed out of a fit on the Cardinals' Major League roster after the team's signing of Brayan Pena, catcher Tony Cruz was traded to the Royals on Wednesday for Minor League infielder Jose Martinez. The deal came just hours before the 10:59 p.m. CT deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players like Cruz.
Cruz served as Yadier Molina's primary backup for the past four seasons after being a 26th-round pick by the Cardinals in 2007. In parts of five seasons with the club, Cruz hit .220/.262/.310 and started 129 games behind the plate. His role was often a thankless one, as playing time was scarce when Molina was healthy.
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With plans to be more proactive in resting Molina next year, St. Louis sought to upgrade the backup-catcher position this offseason. The Cards did so earlier in the week, announcing a two-year agreement with Pena, an 11-year Major League veteran. At the time of the announcement, general manager John Mozeliak noted that he would pursue trading the 29-year-old Cruz, or else non-tender him. The latter would have made Cruz a free agent.
Mozeliak found a trade match with the Royals, who agreed to exchange Cruz for Martinez, a 19-year-old middle infielder out of Venezuela. Since signing as a non-drafted free agent, Martinez has played one season in the Dominican Summer League and the past two in Rookie ball with Burlington and Idaho Falls. In 63 games this year, he hit .246/.208/.296. Most of his playing time has come as a shortstop.
The Cardinals tendered contracts to four arbitration-eligible players -- Brandon Moss, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams and Seth Maness -- before Wednesday's deadline, but opted not to do so with reliever Steve Cishek.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.