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St Louis Cardinals sign RHP Carlos Villanueva to minor league deal

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The former Cub can start, relieve, and twirl his mustache.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that could be considered "most Mozeliakian," the Cardinals have signed Carlos Villanueva to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. The 31 year-old Villanueva has been in the big leagues since 2006, pitching for the Brewers, Blue Jays, and Cubs over a seven year career as a true swing-man. He's made 76 starts in 390 appearances, including at least five in every year except 2010.

The hurler has a full arsenal including a solid fastball, a good grounder-inducing slider, a curve, and a change, and has very little difference in his lefty/righty splits.

The righty certainly appears to be a useful piece out of the bullpen. Though his overall 4.64 ERA last year doesn't look great, that was heavily influenced by a handful of poor starts (including a 9 RA in 3 IP drubbing from the Cardinals in April). As a reliever, he had an excellent 2.64 ERA backed up by a 2.99 FIP with a strong 24.1 K% and 6.8 BB% in 58 IP in 2014.

He also could offer the club the flexibility to address some possible iterations of the innings gap they face that Ben Humphrey described last month. Though the aforementioned 3 IP slaughter at the hands of the Cards last year made his overall ERA as a starter ugly last season, he's been a solid option in his spot starts with a FIP between 3.50 and 4.50 as a starter each of the last four seasons. He would be an ideal choice as long-man and occasional starter if Martinez or Wacha's innings need to be managed conservatively.

Marco Gonzales could be used in a similar role if Villanueva doesn't make the squad, but Gonzales (assuming Martinez wins the starter's spot in the theoretical spring competition) is also likely first in line for a starting gig if any of the Cardinals' starters were to miss an extended period. Villanueva then offers depth and an upgrade from the role that Nick Greenwood filled last season.

Villanueva is unlikely to reproduce the shocking value the Cardinals got from NRI Pat Neshek last year, and isn't even a lock to make the team if Kevin Siegrist is actually healthy, but he appears to be a much stronger addition than the similar David Aardsma move from last spring.  As is the case with Dean Anna and Ty Kelly, Carlos Villanueva offers inexpensive depth and a bit of upside in a solid and flexible manner. Most Mozeliakian, indeed.

Here's some video from one of his good starts last year.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Villanueva has an eephusy thing (h/t Crownstephens724)