The Cardinals intend to stretch out former closer Trevor Rosenthal as a starter, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. While it seems he’ll have at least some chance of earning a rotation spot, it may be that a more flexible relief role could be the end result of the experiment.
Rosenthal has long been seen as a candidate to attempt a return to starting, but it has never really been pursued since he held such a critical role in the Cards’ pen. But skyrocketing walk rates and some injuries pushed Rosenthal out of the ninth inning last year, and Seung Hwan Oh has now firmly taken the reins as the closer. Still, St. Louis has a lot riding on Rosenthal, who MLBTR projects to earn $6.3MM in arbitration.
“It terms of role we’re going to see how things go, but we’re open to anything,” GM John Mozeliak says of Rosenthal. “It was something that he has had a desire to do. As we were looking at all the different moving pieces it doesn’t hurt to have an extra arm, and in the past we’ve felt like an extra arm would help. As you start to think about bullpen structure and multiple innings it makes sense to have people prepared to do more than just a one-inning stint.”
Rosenthal certainly has the high-octane stuff to possibly feature in the kind of flexible, sometimes multi-inning role in which Andrew Miller flourished for the Indians. Michael Wacha, too, could evolve into that kind of weapon for the Cards, Goold notes, even if the team hopes he’ll be prepared to take a full starter’s load in 2017. With at least five other viable rotation candidates, though, perhaps a modified role could be a way to receive value from Wacha while allowing him to build his strength and return to his prior form.
It’s notable, too, that the Cards have yet another theoretical option for a multi-inning role that’s more than just long relief. Jaime Garcia had his share of struggles last year, as did Wacha, but has produced top-tier results when healthy in the recent past. Of course, his balky shoulder may make flexible relief usage a dicey proposition. Garcia could still be flipped in a trade, but the team already exercised his option and seems currently slated to utilize him in some kind of relief capacity (assuming, at least, that Lance Lynn returns healthy next spring).