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How Do You Replace Jordan Hicks

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With a hole in their bullpen, the Cards will probably attempt to replace Hicks.

MLB: Miami Marlins at St. Louis Cardinals Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the late post. I unfortunately do not have a good excuse, but I’m luckily off work from my actual job today to write this at all, although very late. Jordan Hicks left Saturday’s game early, and a couple days later Tommy John surgery. Unlike some people (*cough Bernie*), I do not actually believe there is anything more to look into that. A young pitcher got hurt, the Cardinals sent him for tests, the test determined he needed Tommy John. There is no conspiracy here. The Cards medical staff behaved like a medical staff does. The Cardinals PR did not mislead us. You do not diagnose injuries needed TJ based off their reaction getting hurt on the mound.

Hicks was a 22-year-old who could throw 105 mph and pair with a basically unhittable slider. So in literal terms, there is no replacing Hicks with a similar type of pitcher. Unfortunately, those pitchers do not grow on trees, or in farm systems. It’s definitely a blow to the team and it will probably affect next year’s team as well.

However, I may add that the production of Jordan Hicks, what he actually did on the field, is hardly irreplaceable. There are 15 qualified relievers with a better xFIP, 39 relievers with a better FIP, and 61 pitchers with a better ERA. His 0.5 WAR is below 47 relievers and equal to 13 more. There are reasons to distrust a projection system like ZiPS when it comes to unusual pitchers like Hicks, but ZiPS has no reason to believe he’ll be anywhere near that good either, with a projected FIP of 3.92. I would easily take the under on that, but I’m not sure I’d go as low as his actual FIP of 3.18 either.

Looking at the 59 relievers with a better WAR, we can immediately rule out pitchers who seem like flukes, pitchers who are decidedly not available, and pitchers who might demand a king’s ransom. For starters, two Cardinals are above Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos and John Gant. So now we’re down to 57. Yes, two Cardinals relievers had more WAR than Hicks and part of that is innings, but both pitchers have actually been better than him too.

I think we should probably rule out pitchers with xFIPs above 4.00, because 1) they might not actually be good and 2) they will almost certainly cost more than they should. Goodbye Liam Hendriks, Pedro Baez, Jalen Beeks, Hansel Robles, Lou Trivino, Adrian Sampson, Yuismeiro Petit, Yoshihisa Hirano, Roenis Elias, Reyes Moronta, and Blake Treinen. Most wouldn’t be an upgrade anyway, as they share Hicks’ WAR. I did leave a couple players with xFIP above 4.00 because of their history of being an elite pitcher such as Sean Doolittle and Raisel Iglesias. Joakim Soria and Shane Greene also remain because they barely have an xFIP over 4.00. We’re down to 46 pitchers.

Next, let’s rule out pitchers playing for contenders, pitcher such as Adam Ottavino or Aroldis Chapman. With pitchers playing for the Twins, Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, or any of the NL Central teams, that cuts out 21 more relievers. I left in the Indians and Athletics because neither behaves like a normal contending team and could absolutely trade one of their relievers just because they like value and shedding money.

Lastly, let’s rule out relievers in their first three years of service time, because even rebuilding reams hold onto these guys until they start making money. Goodbye Ty Buttrey, Nick Anderson, Aaron Bummer, Jose Leclerc, and Wander Suero. Probably some crossover with the contending list, but that’s a shorter list that I would have guessed. We’re down to 20 relievers who are currently pitching the same or better than Hicks.

Lastly, king’s ransom pitchers who probably aren’t attainable for a price worth paying. The type of moves that would immediately be known as a “panic trade,” and the Cardinals are not really desperate enough to make one of these moves, since they look well-set up past 2019, not to mention are still very much in the race. Kirby Yates and Brad Hand both have starting pitcher-esque WAR already and play for teams that are trying to win, so to pry either, you’d need to pay a king’s ransom. I also can’t imagine 25-year-old Edwin Diaz is attainable from the Mets. Lastly, I would definitely ask about, but can’t really see a deal working for either Ken Giles or Will Smith. Both are not necessarily demanding king’s ransoms, but I’m not giving up a Dylan Carlson for half a season of Smith. 15 relievers.

Here are the 15 names: Sean Doolittle, Hector Neris, Ian Kennedy, Scott Oberg, Nick Wittgren, Joakim Soria, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Trevor Gott, Shane Greene, Justin Anderson, Sam Dyson, Blake Treinen, Cam Bedrosian and Andrew Chafin.

Boy that list kind of sucks. I realize I sort of priced out the best relievers here so I suppose you can give up a Nolan Gorman or Carlson for those guys, but do you really want to do that? Neris is interesting, but he’s probably unavailable since the Phillies are trying. Mets guys are interesting I guess. Treinen just got injured. Greene has a 4.07 xFIP and a 0.90 ERA so that doesn’t seem like an ideal guy to trade for honestly.

0kay so you don’t replace Jordan Hicks. That’s not the answer to his injury. What you can do is improve the starting pitching. Move a current starter to the bullpen. Will he be better than Hicks? No, probably not. But the bullpen already has Gant and Gallegos, plus Carlos Martinez and Andrew Miller. The bullpen hasn’t been a problem and Hicks is only a part of the reason why. The starting pitching has. So if you want to respond to the Hicks injury by getting another pitcher, make it a starter.