The Cardinals announced Friday that they’ve signed lefty Andrew Suarez to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training. He’ll provide some left-handed depth and a potential bullpen option after spending the past two seasons pitching in the Korea Baseball Organization (2021) and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (2022).
A second-round pick by the Giants back in 2015, Suarez pitched parts of three big league seasons in San Francisco, impressing with a solid 4.49 ERA in 160 1/3 frames as a rookie in 2018 before regressing to a 5.79 ERA in 32 2/3 innings during his sophomore season. Suarez tossed just 9 2/3 innings during the shortened 2020 campaign, bringing his career ERA to 4.66 in 202 2/3 innings. He’s fanned a below-average 17.8% of his MLB opponents but also posted strong 7.8% walk and 49.8% ground-ball rates as a big leaguer.
Suarez, 30, was excellent with the KBO’s LG Twins back in 2021, pitching 115 1/3 innings of 2.18 ERA ball with a 26.6% strikeout rate, 8.7% walk rate and 57.1% grounder rate. That landed him a deal with NPB’s Yakult Swallows for the 2022 season, which he surely hoped to use as a stepping stone for either a raise on a second season in NPB or a return directly to the big leagues. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out that way; Suarez spent more time with Yakult’s minor league club than he did their top team, and he was roughed up for a 6.23 ERA in 21 2/3 frames while pitching with the Swallows’ top-level club.
It’s not clear whether the Cardinals view Suarez as a starter or reliever, though he’d have a better path to their roster if he were to head to the bullpen for the upcoming season. He’s worked primarily as a starting pitcher in his career, but the Cardinals have Jordan Montgomery, Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz and Jack Flaherty penciled into the rotation now, with several depth options behind them (e.g. Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford, Matthew Liberatore, top prospect Gordon Graceffo). In the bullpen, however, he could compete with Genesis Cabrera, Zack Thompson, Packy Naughton and JoJo Romero.