The Cardinals announced Friday that they’ve signed right-handed reliever Josh James to a minor league contract. The 30-year-old hasn’t pitched in the Majors for two seasons and was non-tendered by the Astros after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair his right flexor tendon in 2022. He’s represented by CAA.
Prior to that injury, James spent parts of four seasons in the Houston ’pen as a hard-throwing but command-challenged middle reliever who could miss bats in droves. He’s pitched 106 1/3 innings in the majors and carries a 4.64 ERA with a huge 34.3% strikeout rate but an ugly 13.2% walk rate. James averaged 97.1 mph on his heater from 2018-20 but saw that mark tumble to 94.8 mph in 2021. Injuries limited him to just 25 2/3 innings between Triple-A and the big leagues in ’21, and he managed only 27 2/3 frames in the minors the following year before requiring surgery.
Between his injuries and his history of command troubles, James is a project for the Cardinals and little more than a roll of the dice at this point. If he can get back to full strength and back on track in the upper minors, he could eventually be called up when injuries and/or poor performance create an opening in manager Oli Marmol’s relief corps.
As it stands, however, the St. Louis bullpen figures to include Ryan Helsley, Giovanny Gallegos, JoJo Romero, Andrew Kittredge, Andre Pallante and Zack Thompson, with a handful of candidates for the final two spots (John King, Nick Robertson, Riley O’Brien, Rule 5 pick Ryan Fernandez and non-roster invitee Wilking Rodriguez among them).