Many people blamed the 2017 disappointing Cardinals season on the bullpen. There was a stretch of the season where it seemed as though the bullpen blew every game. After such an inconsistent bullpen from last year, it is important to construct a solid one for next year.
Specifically, Brett Cecil was blamed for many of the team’s loses. Fans expected great things from Cecil because of the large 4 year 30 million dollar contract that he signed before the start of last season. People expected a lot from him because he is one of the highest paid relievers in the game.
He ended the year with a 2-4 record and a 3.88 Earned Run Average. Even though he did not have an amazing season, overall, he was not a total disappointment, and he will be back in the Cardinals’ bullpen next year.
Another disappointing bullpen piece from last year was Seung-hwan Oh who went 1-6 with a 4.10 ERA. He will not be back with the Cardinals this year because he is a free agent and the Cardinals do no intend on resigning him
The other major bullpen piece who will not be back with the Cardinals for next year is Trevor Rosenthal who is out for all of next year because of Tommy John Surgery.
2017 Bullpen Success
There were three major bullpen successes from the 2017 season. Those were Tyler Lyons, John Brebbia and Sam Tuivailala. Each of those three pitchers proved that they deserve spots in the Cardinals bullpen for years to come.
Lyons, a former starting pitcher went 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA and had 68 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. Matheny went to Lyons consistently in order to get one or multiple shutout innings.
Brebbia had a great rookie season with a 2.44 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched. His efficiency came as a pleasant surprise to fans and coaches. The more he succeeded, the more Matheny used him in close games.
Tuivailala was finally given a permanent spot in the Cardinals bullpen where he shined. He went 3-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 42.1 innings pitched.
Matt Bowman had a mediocre 2017 season as it seemed as though he pitched badly every other appearance. He had a 3.99 ERA in 58.2 innings.
Another option is Cardinals hero Adam Wainwright. Wainwright had his worst year of his career starting pitching as he had a dismal 5.11 ERA. The idea of Wainwright going to the bullpen has been up in the air since the middle of the 2017 season.
There are also many options within the Cardinals organization who can pitch in the bullpen next year. This list includes rookies Ryan Sherriff, Sandy Alcantara, Zach Duke, John Lucas, John Gant and more.
Free Agents to Watch
The Cardinals also intend to sign free agent bullpen pieces as stated by John Mozeliak. They could bring back guys like Zach Duke and Juan Nicasio.
Nicasio is a strong possibility for the Cardinals because of his success in his short time in a Cardinal uniform last year. Nicasio went 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA with the Cardinals in 9 games.
Duke had an bad season last year where he had a 5.29 ERA after coming back from an injury.
There are also a lot of other strong bullpen arms who the Cardinals could land in Free Agency.
This list includes former Cardinal Pat Neshek, Wade Davis, Brandon Kintzler and many other free agents.
The Cardinals should target Davis because he is a reliable closer who can anchor the bullpen. The problem with Davis is that he is a well known closer for the Cubs who the Cardinals will have to offer a lot of money to sign him. The Cardinals do not like spending a lot of money, but it is necessary move for the Cardinals to make. He had 32 saves and had a 2.30 ERA.
The Cardinals should also sign Neshek because he was successful in a Cardinals uniform earlier in his career and can be a reliable part of next years bullpen. This year he went 5-3 with a 1.59 ERA.
If the Cardinals were to get Davis and Neshek, then the bullpen would look like this:
Set up Men: Neshek and Brebbia
Middle Relief: Lyons, Tuivailala, Cecil, Bowman
Long Relief: Wainwright
With this bullpen, the Cardinals will not have as many problems as they had this past year. Cardinal fans will be able to be confident in their bullpen instead of the constant frustration that the fans felt this year whenever the bullpen was used.
Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference, Cardinals.com, Mlbtraderumors and Spotrac
Photo Credit: © Tommy Gilligan USA TODAY Sports