Less than 24 hours after Trevor Rosenthal pitched for the third night in a row and setup man Kevin Siegrist was unavailable due to heavy recent usage, the Cardinals make an attempt to bolster their bullpen by trading for Steve Cishek, with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reporting the deal first. Cishek had been a dependable member of the Marlins bullpen for the four season prior to this one, and even comes with the "Proven Closer" label with 94 saves in his career.
Cishek did not get off to a great start this season and was optioned to the minors at the beginning of June. Since returning to the majors, he has pitched 12 2/3 innings, striking out 11 against four walks with four runs given up, just one of which was "earned" causing a 0.71 ERA and solid 2.27 FIP over the last month. He has a good slider that he uses a lot of the time, and despite his lower delievery, has not shown any great platoon splits over the years.
Closers with solid save totals often do well in arbitration and last season was Cishek's second crack at arbitration after qualifying for Super-2 status at the end of the 2014 season. Cishek's salary for 2015 is $6.65 million so presumably the Cardinals will be on the hook for a little over $2 million for his services the rest of the season. Cishek is still under team control for two more seasons after this one should the Cardinals want to keep his services. However, teams must offer an arbitration salary at least 80% of the previous season's salary so keeping Cishek without negotiating a new deal would mean offering him more than $5 million for next season. As such, it is best to look at at Cishek as a short-term rental with some possibility of sticking around longer than this season.
As for who the Cardinals gave up, Clark Spencer was on that, too.
#marlins to receive double A RHP Kyle Barraclough from cardinals for Steve Cishek— clarkspencer (@clarkspencer) July 24, 2015
Kyle Barraclough is the piece going to the Marlins in this deal. Barraclough was a seventh round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and currently pitching for Double-A Springfield as a reliever. He has pitched as a reliever his entire major league career. He was not on any of the major prospect lists heading into the season and started at High-A Palm Beach. After striking out more than one-third of the hitters there, but also walking nearly 15%, he received a promotion to Springfield where he continued to strike players out at a high rate at 25%, but also piled up the walks with a 17% walk rate. He has racked up 12 saves over both levels. When looking at prospects a year ago, Eric Johnson wrote:
Kyle Barraclough remains a C+ for me despite his age and level simply because he's battled a ton of injuries the last couple of years, but when he's right he's been absolutely dominant wherever he's pitched.
Barraclough has not been quite as dominant since moving further up the chain, but he is an intriguing arm. That said, the Cardinals appear to be taking on salary in exchange for a flier of a reliever as opposed to giving up significant prospects.
This was not a move that had to be made, but it is a move that should help the team. Cishek provides insurance should Walden not return or if Rosenthal gets hurt or becomes ineffective. Cishek has been a reliable late-inning arm that should relieve some of the pressure currently being felt on Rosenthal and Siegrist.
NL Leaderboard Number of games pitching on zero days rest: Choate-22 Maness-18 Rosenthal-16 Nobody else has more than 15.— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) July 24, 2015
The Cardinals need to back off their reliever usage with Rosenthal, Choate, Maness, and Siegrist all near the league leaders for appearances this season. To the extent that this trade accomplishes that feat, Cishek looks like a solid addition for the Cardinals with limited cost or downside.