This is the first part of a series that I'm doing on the Cardinals offseason. I'll be addressing specific position groups and mapping out my plans for how i would navigate this offseason. So here we go, starting off with the bullpen.
First up, let's project out the opening day bullpen as things stand right now, and let's assume that the Cardinals re-sign all of their bullpen FA's just for the sake of this post.
Pretty solid, and not really anything to particularly worry about. But, it can always get better, so here's where we're going. First up, i'm letting Pat Neshek and Jason Motte both walk, there are better options in house than Motte and Neshek is just going to get too big of a payday for me to go after him. Now, my targets for improvement include left-handed relief and other set-up options, so let's go address those.
First Target: Andrew Miller
The Cardinals have already expressed interest in acquiring Miller, and it's understandable. In 62.1 IP last season, Miller had a 2.02 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 103 K's over 17 BB's. In 92 AB's, lefties hit .162 off Miller, and more impressively, in 124 PA's, righties only hit .145. Miller is a dominant lefty who can be effective getting anyone out and is still relatively young at 29 years old. Worth a shot
Second Target: Zach Duke
An alternate option for those looking to save a few bucks on left handed relief options. Duke was a very affordable asset in the Milwaukee bullpen last season. In 58.2 IP last season, Duke pitched to a solid 2.45 ERA, with a 2.14 FIP and 11.4 K/9. In 96 AB's, lefties hit a paltry .196 with 37 K's and 4 XBH's all season. Duke isn't quite as effective against righties, as they hit .242 against him in 125 AB's with 37 K's and an OBP of .288. Duke is an interesting option, because at 31 it's reasonable to think he's still in his prime, yet he has been around for 10 seasons already. He'd be a lot more affordable than Miller, but there is a reason for that, as he's not quite as good.
Third Target: Luke Gregerson
Assuming Pat Neshek leaves, (and in some cases, even if he doesn't) Luke Gregerson is an outstanding, almost must-have option. Gregerson pitched to a sparkling 2.12 ERA in 72.1 IP last season with a 1.00 WHIP and 59 K's over 15 BB's. His splits against righties and lefties are extremely similar, with lefties hitting .221 and righties hitting .219. However, righties slugged .397 with 6 HR's and 26 RBI's off Gregerson, and lefties only slugged .265 with 0 HR's and only 3 RBI's. But Gregerson is an efficient, ground ball pitcher who works quickly and has nasty stuff. Just imagine a taller, wiser Seth Maness who can pitch the 8th inning. Yes, please.
Let Pat Neshek walk. I'm about to contradict myself in the next 2 paragraphs, but Neshek is 34, and i'm just not willing to give him a multi-year contract with an AAV of over $3 million. The Tigers or the Dodgers will swoop in with their pocketbooks and throw heaps of cash at Neshek and i just can't compete with them.
Let Jason Motte walk. Motte has served his time well here, he helped win a WS in 2011, was a dominant closer in 2012 and has been one of the most active members of the community here. I love Jason Motte, and there really isn't a better guy in sports anywhere. So i wish him well wherever he goes, but his time here has passed.
Sign Andrew Miller, 3 yrs. $18 million. My parameters for this contract were taken from the deals that Matt Thornton and Boone Logan signed last offseason. Logan signed for 3 yrs. and $16.5 million, and obviously Miller is worth more than Logan. Why do i sign Miller? Mike Matheny needs a dominant, shut down lefty that he can trust. Miller could be that guy, who could also get out righties and absorb over 75 innings due to his age being young.
Sign Luke Gregerson, 3 yrs. $12 million. At the start of the offseason, i figured Gregerson wouldn't be a hotly desired commodity, but dominant set-up men are in need after teams saw the success of the Royals and Giants bullpen. Knowing that, the market will drive up Gregerson's value and force me to potentially overpay, but he's definitely worth it to me. With Neshek being let go, Matheny needs a set-up guy he can trust, since apparently El Gallo isn't that guy.......damn it all. But Gregerson is an adaptable, dominant arm that can pitch innings, be efficient and produce at a high level.
So here's what the opening day bullpen looks like after my offseason tinkering.
Seth Maness, Luke Gregerson, Andrew Miller, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, Sam Tuivailala/Freeman.
Pretty solid, a solid closer, 2 different dominant set-up options, 2 ground ball guys, a dominating left handed specialist, a highly specialized, somewhat less effective left handed specialist, and a gas-throwing young gun. I like what i'm seeing here, and so should Mike Matheny
Thanks for reading