St. Louis Cardinals: Who closes games if Luke Gregerson misses time?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Luke Gregerson
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: Luke Gregerson /

The St. Louis Cardinals know all too well how volatile the closer’s position can be. With off-season signee Luke Gregerson going down with an oblique injury, who steps in if he misses significant time? Here are some options and their likelihood of happening.

One option would be to sign a free agent closer. Greg Holland still remains on the market and St. Louis Cardinals fans were hoping for a closer to be signed this offseason anyway. Holland took a chance on himself last year and came up big for Colorado. He collected 41 saves with a 3.61 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

St. Louis Cardinals principal owner Bill Dewitt, Jr. is already on record as saying he is wary of the volatility and risk of committing big dollars to free agent closers. Holland already has injury history after missing the entire 2016 season. That makes this a highly unlikely scenario. Besides, Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs argues that the Cardinals already signed Greg Holland…sort of.

That brings us to option number two. Bud Norris signed this off-season to provide bullpen depth and to give Mike Matheny another option with closing experience. He saved 19 games for the Angels last year before going down with knee inflammation. Norris looked off after coming back from that injury and the second half stats show it. He pitched to 7.01 ERA in the second half with a 1.75 WHIP.

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Those numbers are cringe worthy, but his first half was exceptional. It’s worth noting that Norris had a 2.23 ERA and 1.05 WHIP before getting hurt. The injury bug has already hit Norris this spring.

If he is healthy though, Norris looks like a decent, though underwhelming, option to close out games. The Cardinals could do worse.

The third and most plausible scenario to this writer would be Tyler Lyons. Redbird Rants’ own Dr. Michael D. Miles already made a compelling case for Lyons to close out games.

Last year’s first half numbers for Tyler were not great (to put it nicely). The second half though, was masterful. Lyons pitched to a 1.61 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in the second half. His K% also jumped up to 37.1%.

With the ability to pitch multiple innings, Lyons could be the St. Louis Cardinals’ version of Andrew Miller. The numbers are there to back that up too. Miller had a 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 38.9% K% for the Indians in 2017. That’s nothing short of dominant. Suffice it to say, Lyons looks every bit as good as Miller and should get the first crack at saves should Luke Gregerson miss too much time.

There are other options as well that Mike Matheny could go to. Sam Tuivalala is an option. As is newly acquired Dominic Leone. One of Dakota Hudson or Ryan Helsley could close. Given their collective lack of experience that seems highly unlikely as well. The St. Louis Cardinals could also get really creative and move Alex Reyes to that role, or even put Reyes in the rotation and let Adam Wainwright close to prolong his career.

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Those are both interesting scenarios, but also not very likely. The best scenario right now would be Tyler Lyons as the closer should Gregerson miss too much time. Fortunately, Joe Trezza has quoted Mike Matheny as saying “it doesn’t seem very bad.” However, if that outlook changes (as oblique injuries are prone to do) then this writer thinks Tyler Lyons is the best option to close out games for a St. Louis Cardinals team trying to end a two year postseason drought.