When the Winter Meetings began, I expected a lot more action to take place, especially for the Cardinals. I wrote a piece detailing what I believed would happen and stated that I thought the Cardinals would tackle their bullpen needs.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been done yet. John Mozeliak even came out and said that he wasn’t ready to make a move, which is pretty frustrating.
With the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes dragging out, there was a perfect opportunity for the Cardinals to snag a reliever or two for a good price. Craig Kimbrel was available.
However, Kimbrel signed with the Orioles for one year and $13 million, which is something the Cardinals could have easily done, bringing in an established reliever at an affordable price.
But now that Ohtani has signed with the Dodgers, things should pick up a little bit in free agency. The Cardinals made a trade with the Red Sox to acquire a couple of relievers in exchange for Tyler O’Neill.
I don’t see the guys the Cardinals grabbed from the Red Sox as potential bullpen pieces for 2024. But fortunately, there are still good options available on the free agent market, which is the most likely spot the Cardinals will grab their relievers from.
What’s next for the Cards?
We’ve heard that the Cardinals have shown interest in a few relievers. Phil Maton and former Cardinal Jordan Hicks are two of those relievers. Personally, I’d really like to see them make a play for Josh Hader, but I don’t think that is likely unfortunately.
With that in mind, however, I do think that exploring a reunion with Hicks is a good idea. He got off to a terrible start before ultimately reversing his course and turning in a solid season. The Cardinals traded him to the Blue Jays at the deadline.
Hicks would give the Cardinals some much-needed insurance in the back end of their bullpen. With question marks surrounding Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos, Hicks is somebody who could be used as a closer. I personally think he would be the best option for that role should the Cardinals bring him back. With the Blue Jays, Hicks appeared in 25 games and posted an ERA of 2.63. He averaged 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings during the regular season.
Maton has great postseason experience thanks to his time with the Astros, and he could serve as a middle-relief option. He averaged 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, so he would give the Cardinals some swing-and-miss in their bullpen.
He went 4-3 with a 3.00 ERA during the regular season, so we do know that he can be trusted in high-leverage spots.
These are moves that I could definitely see the Cardinals making, and I think they’re moves that should be strongly considered. No, they won’t be able to sign Hader, but Hicks and Maton are two high-leverage guys that would give the bullpen a completely different look.
While the rotation isn’t anything to write home about, even after the Sonny Gray signing, the Cardinals can make up for that with two really good bullpen signings and as a result, bounce right back into contention for an NL Central title.
I don’t expect any more rotation additions, but the bullpen was also an issue in 2023, and if that is corrected, the Cardinals are a different team.