The rapid decline of Trevor Rosenthal, who has now been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury following his season-long struggles, has the Cardinals in the market for a late-inning arm to add to their relief corps, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.
St. Louis has turned to right-hander Seung-hwan Oh, whose modest offseason signing has proven to be one of the savviest investments of the winter, to handle ninth-inning duties in Rosenthal’s stead. Oh has lived up to his “Final Boss” nickname in the Majors, pitching to a brilliant 1.72 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 and a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate in 52 1/3 innings. Those are dominant numbers out of the rookie relief ace, but the absence of Rosenthal’s typically high-quality innings has stretched the Cardinals a bit thin at the back of the ’pen.
Behind Oh, the Cardinals have relied heavily on Seth Maness, Tyler Lyons, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Bowman in the bullpen this season. Maness, though, missed more than a month with inflammation in his right elbow and has seen his average fastball velocity dip from 89.5 mph to 87.9 mph this season. Siegrist and Lyons have been outstanding from the left side, though Siegrist recently missed a couple of weeks with a bout of mono. Broxton looks more like a middle reliever than the standout closer he once was, and Bowman doesn’t miss many bats, though he’s been a ground-ball machine and has a 2.98 ERA on the year.
That collection of relief arms has delivered mostly strong results, but Oh is the only truly dominant arm of the bunch, so it’s not a surprise to see the Cardinals tied to relief help. The exact quality of the arm they’re looking for, however, isn’t entirely certain based on Heyman’s report. Heyman writes that either Angels closer Huston Street or Royals closer Wade Davis “could make sense for St. Louis” if traded, though he stops short of saying that the Cardinals have actually inquired on either arm, and there’s obviously a wide gap overall talent and 2016 performance between those two arms. The Cardinals have looked into Halos right-hander Joe Smith, he writes, and have in fact been seeking help for the back of the bullpen for some time now, as their search predates Rosenthal’s placement on the disabled list.
Of course, many Cards fans feel that the best possible upgrade the team could make to its bullpen is already in the organization. Right-hander Alex Reyes has emerged as one of the very top pitching prospects in all of baseball and opened plenty of eyes with his 100+ mph fastball in this year’s Futures Game over the All-Star break. However, Reyes’ recent results haven’t been overly encouraging, as he’s posted a 6.52 ERA in his past 29 innings (six starts) with Triple-A Memphis. He has a 5.07 ERA overall on the season and has averaged 12.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 in 55 innings out of the rotation since serving a 50-game suspension for a drug of abuse. Reyes’ overpowering stuff leads some to believe that he could thrive in the Majors right now in a short-relief role despite his rotation struggles in Memphis, but the Cardinals are reportedly being cautious with regards to their prized righty and may not wish to rush him to the Majors. (Reyes was pulled from his most recent start after three innings, prompting some speculation about a call-up, though Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Reyes’ quick hook from the game was “insurance” in the event that Lyons is unable to make a needed spot start for St. Louis on Saturday.)
If the Cardinals do ultimately feel that the trade market presents the best route to an upgrade, they’ll face plenty of competition, as the majority of contending clubs in the league are said to be eyeing upgrades for their relief corps. Within the past two or three days alone, we’ve heard the Giants, Nationals, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, Dodgers and Mets all tied to varying degrees of bullpen help, and other clubs figure to be more quietly on the lookout as well.