St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards need a middle reliever

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 15: Darren O'Day #56 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 15, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 15: Darren O'Day #56 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches in the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 15, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

The St. Louis Cardinals find themselves needing middle relief help during a, so far, disappointing June.  With injuries to key relievers, a move before the trade deadline for a middle reliever could stabilize the bullpen.

The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been in constant motion during the 2018 season of relievers’ moving on and off and back on again the DL.  Although the back in of the bullpen has been stabilized by the likes of Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks, the middle part has been a revolving door of veterans and prospects.

Veteran arms such as Matt Bowman, Luke Gregerson, Tyler Lyons, Greg Holland, and Brett Cecil all spent time on and off the DL.  Meanwhile, Dominic Leone, a young arm the Cardinals were counting on to be a key part of the bullpen for 2018, has been moved to the 60-day DL.

In addition, starter Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and wunderkind potential starter Alex Reyes are currently on the DL, with Wainwright and Reyes unlikely to be seen again this year.  Consequently, the Cardinals can not add bullpen support by way of current starters Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty.

Therefore, I believe, the Cardinals need to search for help for middle relief outside the organization.  One good move by the front office, could stabilize this bullpen and solidify the team’s postseason chances.  Here are three potential low-cost, low-risk, under-the-radar candidates that John Mozeliak and staff could consider acquiring before the Trade Deadline.

Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles

The 35-year old right hander, has built a career of durability  and consistency.  He has a 11 year career ERA of 2.54, a WAR of 16.4, a WHIP of 1.019, in 553 innings pitched.  So far, in 2018, Darren O’Day has a 2.95 ERA in 18 innings.

He has only one year left after 2018 on his 4-year $31 million contract with the Orioles.  The Orioles aren’t going anywhere in 2018 and are unloading payroll in their movement for younger controllable players.  The Cardinals picking up O’Day would likely be a low-cost, low-risk and potentially high reward addition to their bullpen.

Zach Duke, Minnesota Twins

The left-handed former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher is another veteran that could help stabilize the middle part of the bullpen. The 35-year old left has a 14 year career ERA of 4.27, a WAR of 12.2, a WHIP of 1.444, in 1,312 innings pitched.  His elevated ERA and WHIP primarily reflect his early career as a starter.  So far, in 2018, Duke has a 2.96 ERA in 27 innings.

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Zach Duke signed a one year $2.15 million contract with the Minnesota Twins in December of 2017.  The Twins are another team not going anywhere in the post season and picking up Duke would likely be a low-cost option for the Cardinals.  Duke is a  reliable ‘work horse’ pitcher that Mike Matheny could use to his heart’s content.

Tyler Clippard, Toronto Blue Jays

Tyler Clippard is another veteran under-the-radar option the Cardinals could look at to beef up the middle part of the bullpen.  The 33-year-old right hander has a 12 year career ERA of 3.11, a WAR of 13.1, and a WHIP of 1.125 in 722 innings.  So far in 2018, Clippard has 3.13 ERA in 37 innings.  The two time All Star also has 64 saves credited to him in his career, with four in 2018.

Clippard has a one year, $1.5 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2018.  With the Blue Jays unlikely to make the post season in 2018, ‘Clip’ could be another low-cost pick up for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Another advantage of having Clippard in the Cardinal bullpen, would be as a late innings option as well.  The flexibility of using Clippard as a middle relief work horse or in late innings set up, would help solidify the bullpen for a post season run.


A small move, such as picking up a middle reliever via trade, can be a key component in a team making to post season.  Take for consideration the Cardinals move in 2011 when they got Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski in a multiplayer trade on July 27, 2011.  The Cards sent Colby Rasmus, P.J Walters, Trevor Miller, and Brian Tallet to the Toronto Blue Jays for Dotel, Rzepczynski, Edwin Jackson, and Corey Patterson.

Dotel and Rzepczynski helped stabilize the Cardinals bullpen and was important in their World Series run in 2011.  Dotel, a former closer,  pitched 24 innings, had two saves, with a 3.28 ERA.

He earned two victories from the bullpen in the 2011 postseason in nine innings.  Rzepczynski pitched 22 innings and had 3.97 ERA as a left-handed specialist for the Cards in 2011.  In the 2011 postseason, he nine innings, earned a victory against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NCLS, and had no earned runs vs the Texas Rangers in the World Series.

The three players I suggest in this piece are likely not the only pitchers who could help the St. Louis Cardinals make the postseason.  But are three who I think can help.  This is also not  the only move the Cardinals will need to make before the Trade Deadline in July.

However, I believe a move to beef up the middle relief in the bullpen is important before the season goes much further in order for the Cardinals to make the post season.  This is my opinion, what’s yours?  Let us know.

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