ST. LOUIS -- Though there was uncertainty about whether Seth Maness would recover from elbow surgery in time for the start of the 2017 season, the Cardinals' decision to not tender Maness a contract on Friday had more to do with a roster crunch than it did concerns about future performance, general manager John Mozeliak said.
Maness, once the bullpen's double-play specialist who is now a free agent, became a strong non-tender candidate just 24 hours earlier when the Cardinals completed a trade with the Braves. In that trade, St. Louis sent starter Jaime Garcia to Atlanta in exchange for three prospects. One of those prospects, John Gant, had to be placed on the 40-man roster. That put the Cardinals at full capacity.
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Mozeliak desired more roster flexibility heading into next week's Winter Meetings and felt Gant provided added relief depth for next year. All that made Maness expendable.
"This was really sort of a numbers issue," Mozeliak said. "It really became more of a roster management issue than anything else."
The Cardinals did tender contracts to their other five arbitration-eligible players: Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist and Michael Wacha. The club now turns its attention toward reaching contract agreements with each of those players before a February arbitration hearing would be needed.
Maness made $1.4 million in 2016, and, even after an injury-plagued season, would have been in line for a raise as a second-time arbitration-eligible player.
After averaging 72 appearances with the Cardinals from 2013-15, Maness tallied 29 in 2016. He was placed on the disabled list in mid-May with right elbow inflammation, came back a month later, but was then sidelined again in August. The 28-year-old eventually underwent season-ending right elbow surgery.
The Cardinals entered the offseason optimistic that Maness would be recovered before next season but also bracing for the potential of a longer recovery.
Maness, a member of the Cardinals' 2011 Draft class, posted a 3.19 ERA in 244 career games with the Cardinals. He generated 43 double plays in 237 1/3 innings.
While Maness fought through injury, his role as the bullpen's primary ground-ball specialist was seized by Rule 5 pick Matt Bowman. Bowman returns next season, as will Seung Hwan Oh, Brett Cecil, Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton and Rosenthal.
Not only are the Cardinals comfortable with that depth, but they also desire to build a bullpen with more flexibility than last year's 'pen. Mozeliak doesn't want to feel similarly handcuffed and wants to ensure that up-and-coming arms aren't blocked.
"We have some guys we do want to give an opportunity to, like [Sam Tuivailala] and [Miguel] Socolovich," Mozeliak said. "And therefore, I didn't want to end up with a bullpen with no options."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.