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St. Louis Cardinals: Bullpen Implodes/ Broxton’s Days Could Be Numbered

To paraphrase Harry Dunn in regards to the Cardinals, Just when I thought you couldn’t POSSIBLY get any worse, you go and play a game like that…and TOTALLY REDEEM–wait, never mind. No redemption to be found here. The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen outdid their own futility on Monday night in Washington, D.C.. Those in the Twitter-verse probably saw this, and Dan McLaughlin mentioned it late in the broadcast – for those that stuck around – with last night’s performance, the bullpen ERA has balloon to a hefty 8.86 on the season. Oh my.

Our starting pitcher was not without fault last night. Wainwright labored through 4+ innings, allowing 11 hits and no less than 2 base runners in each inning. Things were complicated by a botched double play by Kolten Wong. This added a run for the Nationals and to Wainwright’s pitch count as he had to get 5 outs in the 4th inning.

Cecil would allow Wainwright’s final runs to score to give Washinton the lead. A 7 run 8th would seal their fate. The lone bright spot was a scoreless 7th inning from Trevor Rosenthal in his return from the disabled list.

How can they remedy this?

I can’t even blame Matheny for this epic meltdown. Bowman has been good, Socolovich has been ok. Everyone else resembles Bobby Bonilla trying to milk the Birds through the end of a blowout loss. It’s tough to make the right call when every call is the wrong call.

Thus far, Brett Cecil has allowed all four of his inherited runners to score. He has also been pretty bad keeping his own runners from scoring. At this point, Mike can’t continue to use him in meaningful situations as he did last night. Cecil has a track record of being a slow starter, but he needs to spend a few weeks on mop up duty.

Seigrist was also bad last night in the 8th (4 ER) prior to Broxton coming in and throwing gas…wait for it…on the fire. More on him in a moment. I probably still trust Seigrist a bit more than Cecil, but I also don’t want him trying to hold a 2 run lead in the 8th until he starts to look the part of a setup man again.

Rosie Returns

There was a little silver lining in the game. The return of Trevor Rosenthal should not be overlooked. Based on what he showed – and due to lack of options – he should immediately be considered the primary 8th inning setup man. I would keep Oh in the 9th for now, but another bad outing from him would make me reconsider. Rosenthal might just be the savior.

Bowman should currently have a stronghold on the 7th inning and Socolovich should be the swing man, 6th/7th inning, guy. He hasn’t been perfect but he’s been better than most. Handed-ness matchups should be tossed out until the struggling relievers start getting outs, period.

Broxton Trending Down

The big man hit rock bottom last night. In 2/3 of an inning he allowed 3 ER. Including the runners he inherited from Seigrist, 5 runs crossed the plate while he was on the mound. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Cubs (with 2 walks) but has allowed 5 ER in his 2 appearances since. Overall he has 4 walks and just 2 strikeouts. It’s early, but it continues a downward trend in his career.

He has teased the Cardinals with strong finished to the last two seasons. With Milwaukee in 2015 he posted a 5.89 ERA in 40 games. After joining the Cardinals on August 1st, he would posted a 2.66 mark the rest of the way. In 2016, his April-Aug ERA was 4.65, in September is was 2.61. Unfortunately those April-August games count, too.

The strong finish in 2015 earned him a contract. A 1-year deal would have made sense. Instead Mo gave him a hefty $7.5M, 2-year deal with no-trade protection. A high price for middle relief.

His Days are Numbered

The reason that Broxton is not long for this team is chiefly the pending return of Tyler Lyons. Being out of options, Lyons can’t be stored in Memphis when he finishes his rehab, nor does he deserve to be. Now, Broxton has not been the Cardinals’ worst RP. I give that distinction to Cecil right now. However, Cecil just started a 4-year deal so he isn’t going anywhere. Neither are Oh, Seigrist or Rosenthal. This leaves Bowman, Broxton, and Socolovich as the men on the bubble.

Miguel Socolovich, like Lyons, is out of minor league options. To send him to Memphis he would have to pass through waivers. This man has posted a 1.95 ERA with 44 K’s in 45 games with the club since 2015. He would be claimed and in another MLB bullpen the next day.

Matt Bowman does have options, but following an impressive season as a Rule 5 player in 2016, he has been the most reliable reliever so far in 2017. To demote him to AAA in favor of keeping a declining Broxton would be a crime.

This leaves Broxton. He is no longer an All-Star closer, his fastball no longer touches 97 mph, and he isn’t a strikeout guy. This, plus his numbers, makes him the most expendable and replacable member of he bullpen when Lyons returns.

The Bottom Line

Hanging on to Broxton to start this season was a sensible move, rather than buying out his 2nd year for $1M. Keeping him through Spring as insurance in case of a major bullpen injury was smart. With Rosenthal starting the year on the DL, again he was worth keeping. But now, with better relievers getting healthy and him performing poorly, it’s nearly time for Mo to eat the money and give Broxton his release. This isn’t new to Mo. He has done this with Ty Wigginton, Brayan Pena, and Ruben Tejada over the last few years.

Depth isn’t an issue. Besides Lyons on the mend, they now have Tuivalala and Ryan Sheriff waiting at AAA. Within a few months Sandy Alcantara and Dakota Hudson will be legitimate candidates to jump from the AA rotation to the MLB bullpen. Not to mention hard throwing Rowan Wick. Should injuries occur, they won’t be short on options.

Shawn Kelley started warming up for a 2-run save situation last night only to enter the 9th with a 9 run lead. That’s terrible. As the Cardinals search for answers in the bullpen, cutting ties with Broxton should be a part of the solution.

When I did my 2004/2017 parallels, I likened Jonathan Broxton to Cal Eldred. I believe he’ll actually be going the way of Bill Pulsipher.

Thanks for reading!

Rusty Groppel
I'm a diehard Cardinals fan that feels privileged to write about his favorite team in this corner of cyberspace. I'm also the bass player for the best damn band in the 618, Tanglefoot. Check us out some time.
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