St. Louis Cardinals: What to offer Trevor Rosenthal?
Hypothetical. John Mozeliak sits down at a dinner table with St. Louis Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, and hands him the menu. Listed on it are contract options. 1 year, 2 years or 3 years. Which one do you want, kid? You’re the one with the thunderous right arm that has racked up 96 saves in the last 2+ seasons. This isn’t how arbitration dealings go down. The Cardinals haven’t gone to arbitration since 1999 with Darren Oliver. Mo has kept a clean docket, and while there have been some close calls, he doesn’t let the case for one of his players to be heard in a hearing. I don’t expect Rosenthal to be any different. Only he will get more than a one year sweetener stop.
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A one year deal is off the table. Rosenthal maintained a 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings rate in 2015 while cutting his walk rate from 5.4 to 3.3. He did this while saving 48 games and only pitching two innings less than his 2014 total. He got sharper on the mound and restricted the temptation to allow the first baserunner to reach. He didn’t abandon the can of gasoline all together, pouring some over a handful of 9th inning missions, but he matured on the mound and is one of the best closers in baseball. He may just get better in his third full year of closing.
That doesn’t mean the Cards offer him a 3-4 year deal right now. The Cards don’t do that. They offered Jason Motte a two year deal recently and it blew up in their face. Rosenthal is a lot better than Motte but I don’t see the Cards giving Rosenthal a big extension. If not, wouldn’t it have happened already? Why let it dangle until January 15th? He’s a premier closer in the Majors so the hesitation should be little.
As my blogging colleague Cardinals Farm pointed out after the 2015 season, Rosenthal could still be converted into a starter. He has all the tools and is only 25 years old. The arm isn’t taxed and it may be an option. I don’t see the Cardinals going down that road, not with so many starting candidates. Hold on there, Tim Cooney, even though you are ready, we are going to reconstruct Rosie’s arm to throw 160-175 innings a season instead of 65. Hold on. I don’t see that happening. The only way the Cards allow that option to breathe is if they were trading Rosenthal and cranking up his value for another team. “Here’s Rosenthal. 40 saves a year. Strikeout monster. Underdeveloped pitches in the waiting. Wants to start. Let’s do this.” That’s not likely either. I see Kevin Siegrist being pushed onto the block, especially with the signing of Seung-hwan Oh and the return of Jonathan Broxton and emergence of Sam Tuivailala. Rosenthal is staying put.
I see a 2-3 year deal, tops. Two with an option maybe. The Cards won’t go all Atlanta Braves on Craig Kimbrel 2014 like with a 4 year/42 million dollar deal. Kimbrel had two superb seasons under his belt, better than Rosenthal, and was also 25 when he got the 4 year deal. I don’t see the Cards going there. If they wanted to, it would have already happened.
Rosenthal will sign Friday. He won’t leave the Winter Warmup without a deal. He may get three years. Fangraphs has Rosenthal projected to save 31 games in 2016 with a 2.85(from 2.10 in 2015) with a fielding independent pitching mark of 2.91(up from 2.42). Save totals and projections are basically a raft floating down a river. It has to do with your team’s offensive production and ability of the starters and middle men. 2016 looks like another stellar year for Rosie but I don’t think that nets him a 4 year deal. I say two with an option.
What would you offer Rosenthal?