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Cheap bullpen options for Cardinals

Here are some arms to add depth to Cardinals pitching.

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

This article will be sponsored by the idea that you can never have enough arms. No matter what your bullpen situation looks like, you can always pick up a flyer on a cheap guy. That’s the premise I’m rolling with today. If the Cardinals see a potential improvement that they think could contribute and his price falls enough, they could sign him. Think of it as a fall in your lap situation.

With that said, I am also aware that the Cardinals don’t really need another bullpen arm. They need pitching, but more of the starting variety. But the Cardinals will be depending on a fair number of arms in the bullpen who could or should be starting and another arm could help make that decision easier.

So I thought I’d toss out some intriguing names. The numbers probably won’t support signing any of these guys. Maybe one or two names presented will be as cheap as a nonroster invitee because that’s the life of a bullpen guy. Hence, why I think this is a worthwhile post even if I’m not necessarily into the idea of spending money on the bullpen.

The point of this post, I cannot stress enough, is bargain hunting. So anybody who will cost any amount of money is not going to be mentioned. So to save me some time, I looked at ESPN’s free agent tracker and am immediately ignoring anyone who is among their top 100 free agents. These guys will get some amount of money. No Trevor Rosenthal, no Ken Giles, no Tommy Kahnle.

Andrew Chafin

Chafin might not belong on this list. I just have no idea what his next contract is going to be. You could sign him with the intention of him replacing Tyler Webb. He has a career 3.67 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 3.54 xFIP. His projection is a 3.73 FIP. He’s worse against righties, but still has a 24.7 K% against them, so he’s not unplayable against righties. Lefties have a career .275 wOBA against him.

Robbie Erlin

Okay I’m honestly not trying to make this a suggestion of who can replace Tyler Webb. But here’s another candidate. Erlin only has a 4.51 projected FIP, however it assumes he will start some games. He was effectively a full time reliever in 2019 with only start. As a reliever that year, he had a 3.65 FIP and 4.08 xFIP. His problem, which led to a high ERA, was a .373 BABIP.

Yoshihisa Hirano

Hirano is here under the assumption that you could sign him to a minor league deal. He’s 37-years-old and didn’t have a very good 2020. But 2020 was an odd year and a small sample and he was a pretty decent reliever the previous two years. Yeah it’s unlikely to work out, but it’s also no risk at all and who knows?

Tommy Hunter

Hunter is your run of the mill reliever you imagine when you need to sign a reliever off free agency for cheap. He signed for 1 year, $850,000 prior to the 2020 season and then had a 4.01 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.74 xFIP. Perfectly fine. He’s now 34 and probably would sign for something similar. He has a projected 3.91 FIP. You’d need to guarantee him an MLB deal, but wouldn’t have to spend much money.

Ariel Jurado

This is entirely because Jurado turns 25 later this month and has only really been a starting pitcher. That’s it. Minor league deal, see what you can do. His 2019 stats, which do include some time in the bullpen, are bad. But he functioned as a true long reliever in the bullpen. He averaged over two innings per appearance. Just a wild card option based on age here.

Aaron Loup

Another lefty who could hypothetically replace Webb. Again, it wasn’t really my intention to just name a bunch of guys to replace him, but when that’s your most obvious place to upgrade.... Anyway Loup has a 3.92 projected FIP and had a salary of $1 million last year. He’s now 33, so he might be even cheaper than that.

Collin McHugh

Once upon a time, McHugh was a 3 WAR starter, but after missing time due to injuries, he ended up getting kicked out of the stacked Astros rotation. He then had a 1.4 WAR season in the bullpen in 2018. He made eight starts in 2019, and overall wasn’t very good. He signed for 1 year, $650,000 with the Red Sox but was never healthy enough to pitch. He’ll turn 34 in 2021. He’s throwing to teams, or rather he already threw to them, but whether it went well, I do not know.

David Phelps

So this is an interesting one. Phelps, in 20 innings pitched, had a 2.65 xFP in 2020. Unfortunately for him, his HR/FB% was 41.2%, which means he was a below replacement player with a 6.53 ERA. But I mean this kind of guy is pretty much designed for my post. Pretty much just assume that his home run luck was just incredibly unlucky, move him to Busch Stadium and profit?

Chaz Roe

Roe was having a good season before being shut down with an elbow injury. He’s also 34. But because of that injury, if he’s actually healthy right now, you can have him probably cheaper than otherwise. Roe has had his fair share of walk problems, but also has struck out over 26% of batters in his career. He’d be a decent security blanket to have if it all went to shit in spring training.

Pat Venditte

Listen, I’m pretty sure he’s not any good, but it’d be pretty cool to have the guy who can throw with both hands. That’s my only pitch. He certainly be had for a minor league deal.

And there you have it. Not a great list I admit. And I doubt most of you will be in favor of signing these guys. And I’m sure a name or two on this list may have already been signed. ESPN is frustratingly behind on updating their list for some reason. Could have saved me a lot of time. Felt like every guy I was ready to write about signed a minor league deal with the Rays recently.

In any case, here are some names on the cheap that could add depth to the Cardinals pitching. Whether they need mediocre depth, well that’s for the Cardinals to decide.