• Chris Lollis

St. Louis Cardinals: 2019 Homecoming of Arms?

Yadier Molina with Trevor Rosenthal (photo credit Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

Every off-season, rumors swirl on who the St. Louis Cardinals could/should go after in free agency to better themselves from the year before. Granted, every off-season there are different team needs and question marks that have to be addressed.

It is no secret how vocal most of us have been on the team needing an impact bat (or two), but let’s switch gears for a second and take a look at another area of concern. The bullpen.

First off, I believe St. Louis has so many young arms that can be plugged in and potentially thrive with a bullpen spot, that I don’t think they are in bad shape in the pitching department.

Yes, Brett Cecil still being on the books is a detriment and I would like to see the Cardinals somehow move on from him. Yes, Bud Norris fizzled towards the end of the season and isn’t a true closer but it wouldn’t hurt my feeling if they worked out a low cost deal. Chasen Shreve and Tyler Webb were two lefties that didn’t necessarily excite, and a guy like Tyson Ross who I would love to see return, will likely get picked up by a team in a starting role capacity.

Pitchers Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, Austin Gomber, Luke Weaver, John Gant, Daniel Poncedeleon and Mike Mayers will all be potential arms of strength next season as they battle for starter status. Dominic Leone is arbitration eligible. Luke Gregerson is still on this team despite his injury ridden 2018.

What about Alex Reyes? A lot of question marks surround his future, but if this guy gets right he will be a weapon. Let’s not forget John Brebbia, who posted the highest fWAR in the bullpen and had the highest strikeout rate. The bearded Brebbia is very much underrated.

Adam Wainwright could also be an option. While the contract and role are not defined, Waino could be a surprise plus in the bullpen if that’s how it all plays out.

There’s also guys on the cusp, like Ryan Helsley that the Cardinals are high on, and Giovanny Gallegos that was the last September call up last season.

These are all (in house) options the Cardinals can go to next season, but potential isn’t as sexy as certainty. While the free agent market doesn’t guarantee said certainty, there are a slew of arms out there that St. Louis could bring in and rely on.

Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera, Zach Britton, Cody Allen, and Andrew Miller are all big name stoppers if the front office decides to chase them.

For conversation sake, let’s take a look at some names of available relievers that the St. Louis Cardinals are already familiar with.

Joe Kelly. Drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2009 MLB draft, Kelly came up through the ranks making his debut in 2012. He pitched in parts of three seasons for St. Louis before being dealt along with Allen Craig in 2014 to the Red Sox for John Lackey. In 2018 for Boston, Kelly didn’t have the greatest ERA as he finished the season with a 4.39. He did however have a 9.3 K/9 in 65.2 innings of work and appeared in a career high 73 games.

Adam Ottavino. The Cardinals selected Adam in the first round (30th pick) of the 2006 MLB draft. He made his MLB debut in 2010 as a starter, and appeared in 5 games that season. In 2012, he was picked up on waivers by the Colorado Rockies where he developed into a relief pitcher. 2018 was a highlight for Ottavino as he posted the lowest ERA of his career, a 2.43, while appearing in a career high 75 games pitching 77.2 innings. He also ended the season with a 13 K/9, also a career best.

Trevor Rosenthal. Drafted in the 21st round of the 2009 amateur draft, the Missouri native was a starter that converted to relief. He got his debut in 2012, and spent 6 seasons in St. Louis. Rosie was named an All Star in 2015, a season which he set the Cardinals franchise record for saves (48), after a stellar 2014 where he had (45). He ranks 5th all-time for saves for St. Louis behind the likes of Jason Isringhausen, Lee Smith, Todd Worrell and Bruce Sutter.

Trevor was given his outright release at the end of 2017, and missed the entire 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. His last season for St. Louis he finished with a 3.40 ERA. In 47.2 innings, he posted a career best 14.3 K/9.

Lastly, a guy named Rick Ankiel. What a feel good story this might be. The lefty pitcher began his career with St. Louis where he pitched from 1999-2001. He struggled with command after his case of the yips and made a brief return in 2004 earning 1 win.

He converted to an outfielder, spending time in the Cardinals minor leagues working on coming back in that capacity. The comeback story saw Rick play 3 more seasons for St. Louis (2007-2009) then stints with the Royals, Braves, Nationals, Astros & Mets.

Ankiel announced his retirement from baseball in 2014. He shocked many Cardinals fans when towards the end of the 2018 season, announced he was planning a return to baseball as a pitcher.

The 39 year old has had talks with Cardinals and it would not surprise me if he indeed gets a chance to show his stuff with an invite to Spring Training.

While there may be better available options for the St. Louis Cardinals to consider this off-season, it will be interesting to see if 2019 ends up being a homecoming of arms from at least one of these former Cardinal pitchers.

Thanks for reading

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