The Cardinals have officially struck a deal with the Marlins to add righty Steve Cishek, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald was first to report (Twitter links). Heading back to Miami in the deal is Double-A righty Kyle Barraclough. St. Louis will take on the remainder of the $6.65MM left on Cishek’s contract this year, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets.
Before a rough stretch to open the 2015 campaign, the 29-year-old Cishek had established himself as one of the game’s most reliable late-inning arms. Over 2011-2014, he put up 253 1/3 innings of 2.70 ERA pitching, with 10.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9. Despite racking up 91 saves over that stretch, Cishek lost his closing role to A.J. Ramos and was eventually optioned earlier this year.
Things have gotten better of late for the side-armer, but it’s hard to ignore his poor early results. Cishek has lost a mile an hour off of his average fastball velocity, with his double-digit strikeout-per-nine tallies from last year falling to 7.9 K/9 this season. Cishek has managed to maintain a swinging strike rate of 9.3%, in line with previous seasons, but that has not translated into the results and he has also walked over a hitter per nine innings more than he did in 2014.
All said, Cishek has worked 32 innings and put up a 4.50 ERA. But there are signs of promise. He has been victimized by a high BABIP (.350) and low strand rate (66.4%), and is inducing soft contact at better-than-usual levels. And, of course, the results are much better of late. He has allowed just one earned run over 12 2/3 innings since he was recalled on June 14.
For St. Louis, the move resembles the 2012 trade to acquire Edward Mujica and the 2013 deal that brought in John Axford. As in those situations, the team will add an underperforming arm to bolster depth and take a bet on improved results going forward.
While the Cards have received excellent work from their bullpen, top set-up man Jordan Walden is still working back from injury and the club has leaned heavily on pitchers such as Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness. And as Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com notes on Twitter, the Cardinals have moved righty Matt Belisle to the 60-day DL to create roster space, which indicates that they will be without one of their internal options for some time.
For Miami, meanwhile, the deal paints the team as a seller after a disappointing performance this year. The Fish held onto Cishek last summer, when his value was much higher, in hopes that he’d anchor the pen of a contender.
The Marlins did at least manage to turn an asset of little function to the team — Cishek was a likely non-tender candidate after the year — into a potentially useful future piece. But it seems that the organization’s developmental staff will have some work to do. Barraclough, 25, dominated the High-A level early in the year and earned a promotion to Double-A, where his control issues have become more pronounced. He’s worked to a 3.28 ERA with 10.2 K/9 against 7.3 BB/9 over 24 2/3 frames at Springfield.
Photo courtesy of USA Today.