What’s next for Jason Motte?
In his six years with the Cardinals, relief pitcher and current free agent Jason Motte made his presence known on the field as much as he did in the community. While amassing 54 saves and playing integral postseason roles in three separate years, Motte has been able to widely promote his ‘Strikeout Childhood Cancer’ campaign since 2013.
Coming off an inconsistent year in which he posted a 4.68 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, the 32 year old’s physical health remains a concern. Motte was battling back problems with slight elbow discomfort since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2013. However, these lingering effects are likely to cost him a return with the Redbirds.
The reliever’s six-year major league career has boasted its highs and lows. In 2003, St. Louis drafted Motte in the 19th round as a catcher. After slashing a poor .191 career batting average in the minor leagues through 2006, Motte decided to test a powerful arm and officially transition into a pitcher.
In the long run, this move ended up being the greatest decision in Motte’s baseball career. The righty made his MLB debut in 2008 and quickly worked his way up the bullpen hierarchy. Motte finished with an ERA below 3.00 in four of his five seasons prior to Tommy John surgery, giving him a chance to run away with the Cardinals closer job during the team’s World Series run in 2011.
In the long run, Motte’s switch from catcher to pitcher ended up being the greatest decision in his baseball career. The righty made his MLB debut in 2008 and quickly worked his way up the bullpen hierarchy.
For the next two seasons, Motte did nothing but impress in the closer’s role. His largest accomplishments in St. Louis include recording the last out of the 2011 World Series and co-leading the National League with 42 saves the following year.
Motte faced a rough setback in 2013 spring training, sidelined with a right elbow strain that wasn’t speculated seriously until the former closer became Tommy John surgery victim in May. Nearly a year later, Motte was rushed back into action on May 21 to help a then-struggling bullpen. He struggled to find his comfort zone down the stretch, as his strikeout to walk ratio (near 2:1) was worse than any of his previous five seasons in the Gateway City.
These recent setbacks allowed Motte to grow as person off the field, as he built a positive image in the St. Louis community by raising cancer awareness through the Jason Motte Foundation. The reliever proposed the idea of Strikeout Cancer T-Shirts that featured a backwards K. His organization quickly promoted awareness, raising over $20,000 toward childhood cancer in the first six months, according to a Fox Sports article.
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Rather than addressing the back end of the bullpen, the Cardinals may just look for a flexible relief pitcher to fill Motte’s void. Trevor Rosenthal will likely start as the team’s closer and recently acquired Jordan Walden could patrol eighth inning duties, leaving many middle-inning roles up for grabs.
One particular player who embodies the type of reliever the Cardinals may be looking for is journeyman Octavio Dotel. When acquired in 2011, he was able to work out of jams efficiently and adapt to several bullpen roles in only three months. Even though lefty Marco Gonzales showed this ability last month in the postseason, the Cardinals could scout veterans like Joba Chamberlain or Burke Badenhop if a mop-up man remains a priority.
Looking to compete for closer opportunities in the spring, Motte is almost certain to travel elsewhere if the Cardinals bullpen continues to develop young, emerging arms. Although the free agent hasn’t heavily been tossed around in rumors, some potential teams offering such opportunity include the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers.
Most Cardinal fans will look back at Motte as an underdog leader during the team’s 2011 World Series run, while others may remember him as the bearded closer with an eccentric, but admirable personality. Nevertheless, Motte’s contributions to the Cardinals are invaluable and will be remembered as the former closer looks for a new home this winter.