One of the St. Louis Cardinals’ goals coming into the offseason was to add a closer. So far, they still haven’t done that. They added Luke Gregerson, who does have some closing experience and could potentially fill that role but the back end of the bullpen is still a mess. I believe they still need to add two more relievers to solidify the late innings.
At the start of the offseason I thought the Cardinals had a great opportunity to really build a dynamic bullpen. In my mind there were ten free agents that had the ability to thrive in a late inning role. They were:
Unfortunately, all of those pitchers except for Holland and Reed have been signed already, and the Cardinals didn’t get any of them. I believe this was a huge missed opportunity by the Cardinals. They could still sign Reed or Holland, but they needed two of these guys. Signing both of them is very unlikely.
With that being said, there are still some relievers available that would be an upgrade for the Cardinals current bullpen. Their bullpen, as it stands right now, is sort of in the same situation as the rest of the team. The unit, as a whole, would probably put up average to above average numbers but they completely lack the late inning firepower that’s needed to be a truly great team. So without further ado, here are the five remaining free agents that I believe would improve the bullpen.
This is the name you’ve probably heard kicked around the most. Holland is coming off of a good 2017 season where he successfully returned from Tommy John surgery. He was able to pitch 57.1 innings with a 3.61 ERA and he also put up a 1.1 fWAR, which is pretty good for a reliever. He really had a phenomenal season outside of a terrible month of August where he had a 13.50 ERA. His next highest ERA in any month was 2.25 in July.
Before injuring his elbow in late 2014 Holland was an absolute force out of the bullpen. During a three year stretch with the Royals from 2012-2014 he had ERA’s of 2.96, 1.21, and 1.44, with a ridiculous 7.3 fWAR over that span. Perhaps he could return to that form being away from Coors field and another season away from Tommy John surgery but at the price he’ll command, the risk is pretty high.
Holland and Reed are the only two remaining pitchers expected to get big contracts. With that being said, it is probably worth signing one of these two in order to get Mike Matheny the established closer that he seems to desire.
Reed closed out games for the Mets for most of his time there in 2017 before being traded to the Red Sox at the deadline. He’s a strike throwing machine and had a minuscule 4.9% walk rate last season. He also has good strikeout numbers as he typically sits somewhere in the 9-10 k/9 range. He may get a longer deal than Holland because he is just 29 years old and he should cost less money per year, but he definitely provides a solid option for the ninth inning.
I don’t know what happened in 2016 to cause Albers to put up a 6.31 ERA but it looks like a major outlier. He bounced back in a big way last season with a 1.62 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. Outside of that 2016 season he has been a very steady and solid reliever dating back to the 2012 season. He would provide some nice stability toward the back end of the bullpen.
Hernandez has spent most of his career in a setup role. He has also spent almost his entire career in good hitting environments, so perhaps he’s even better than his numbers look. After another solid season in 2017 I think he should be on the Cardinals radar. He cut down his walks pretty significantly last season and had a 3.11 ERA and 2.76 FIP in 55 innings.
There’s a good chance you remember Romo from closing out games for the Giants during some of their World Series runs. You may also remember him for throwing a ton of sliders. Either way, he had a strange year in 2017. He started the year with the Dodgers but he was terrible with a 6.12 ERA. The Dodgers cut him but he was quickly picked up by the Rays. While pitching for Tampa Bay he rebounded strongly and had a 1.47 ERA in 30.2 innings.
Romo has been an extremely good pitcher for his career(2.69 ERA) and is no stranger to late innings. I believe he would be an excellent addition to this bullpen.
Like I said earlier, I think they need to add two more relievers whether that’s through trade or signing two of these guys. I don’t personally believe that having someone with closing experience is necessary but it seems to be what Matheny wants so they probably need to attempt to sign either Holland or Reed, or perhaps pull off the rumored Alex Colome trade. The relief market has been the one area of free agency that has actually had a lot of movement. It’s time for the Cardinals to add some stability in the late innings.
Thanks for reading