After the St. Louis Cardinals acquired another relief pitcher in Tony Cingrani, now is a good time to look back at other trades President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has made for relief pitchers.
The St. Louis Cardinals underwhelmed at the trade deadline, their only trade being Jedd Gyorko to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tony Cingrani and minor league pitcher Jeffry Abreu. Cingrani, who will miss the season because of an injury and will be a free agent afterward, may never pitch for the team. But if he does, all eyes will be on him to see how Mozeliak’s latest relief acquisition fares.
Since Mozeliak took over as general manager in 2007 and later as president of baseball operations, he has made eight trades for relief pitchers who had major league experience before coming to the Cardinals. Because this only covers trades, players such as Brett Cecil, Jonathan Broxton and Greg Holland do not factor in.
Here is the list of pitchers and how they fared wearing the birds on the bat.
Although Mozeliak took over as general manager in 2007, he didn’t make a trade for a reliever with major league experience until the blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on July 27, 2011. Dotel was one of the pitchers who came to the Cardinals in the trade, and he had established himself as quite the journeyman in his career.
He came to the Cardinals as a 37-year-old veteran, and he was solid in the role, putting the type of stats he had throughout his career. He pitched to a 3.28 ERA in 24.2 innings and struck out 32 and only walked five. Dotel was about all one could ask for in a well-traveled veteran. He was granted free agency after the year.
ST. LOUIS, MO – JULY 20: Reliever Marc Rzepczynski #34 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on July 20, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Rzepczynski was the other relief pitcher the Cardinals received in the 2011 trade with the Blue Jays. He wasn’t as productive as Dotel in 2011, with an ERA of 3.97 and 22 hits in 22.2 innings. He worked mostly as a lefty specialist, and he reprised that role in 2012, this time accruing a 4.24 ERA.
In 2013, he lost any effectiveness he had previously, surrendering nine earned runs in 10.1 innings. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Juan Herrera on July 30, and he has gone on to have a decent career as a lefty specialist for multiple teams.
In what was likely Mozeliak’s best reliever trade, Mujica came to the Cardinals from the Miami Marlins at the deadline in 2012 for Zack Cox. While Mujica was underwhelming for the Marlins in 2012, he flipped a switch after the trade, surrendering only three runs in 26.1 innings with the Cardinals.
In 2013, Mujica took over as the closer after the injury to Jason Motte and the ineffectiveness of Mitchell Boggs. He netted 37 saves in 41 opportunities and made the All-Star team for the only time in his career, and he turned in a solid performance in the playoffs that year. Despite his effectiveness, he became a free agent after the year.
In a post-deadline deal on Aug. 30, 2013, the Cardinals traded relief pitcher Michael Blazek to the Milwaukee Brewers for Axford, who had been a good pitcher for the Brewers in the past but had run into struggles. The Cardinals were mostly able to right the ship, as he gave up two earned runs in 10.1 relief innings after 27 in 54.2 innings with the Brewers that year.
Axford never matched his 2011 season, when he led the league with 46 saves, but he proved to be a decent acquisition for the Cardinals who also helped them in the postseason. Other than one shaky NLCS outing when he gave up two hits and a run in two innings, he was very solid, as that was the only run he gave up in 5.2 postseason innings. Despite the performance, the Cardinals opted not to re-sign him.
This is when the reliever tide started to turn on Mozeliak. Walden had proven himself to be a good pitcher in his career with the Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves, and when the Cardinals made the trade of Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for Walden and Jason Heyward on Nov. 17, 2014, they thought they would be getting a shutdown bullpen option.
Walden was signed to a one-year extension before appearing in a game for the Cardinals, and after 10.1 innings with the team where he struck out 12 and allowed one earned run, he went on the injured list with a right shoulder strain in May 2015.
In March 2016, Walden was shut down after spring training with a strained lat muscle. He never fully recovered from the injury and never pitched again for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals traded for another struggling reliever in Cishek on July 24, 2015. To get him, the Cardinals gave the Marlins a mostly unknown right-hander in Kyle Barraclough. Cishek had given up 37 hits in 32 innings before being dealt, but he had seemingly figured things out after coming off the injured list to rejoin the Marlins.
Cishek’s main issue with the Cardinals was control, as he walked 13 in 23.1 innings. To his credit, he did strike out 20 batters and lower his ERA from 4.50 to 2.31. The Cardinals let go of Cishek after the season, opting to stick with Broxton in the bullpen instead.
Duke was performing as a serviceable left-handed relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox when the team sent him to the Cardinals for prospect Charlie Tilson at the 2016 trade deadline. He did quite well after coming over, pitching to a 1.93 ERA and striking out 26 in 23.1 innings, although he did walk 13.
Duke had Tommy John surgery after the season, and when he recovered, he was less than stellar. He gave up eight runs in 18.1 innings, and his strikeouts were down as he only fanned 12 batters. He was released after the season.
Nicasio was traded to the Cardinals from the Philadelphia Phillies for Eliezer Alvarez on Sept. 6, 2017, but the bulk of his season was with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he was enjoying a rebound season after pitching to a 4.50 ERA in 2016.
When he came to the Cardinals, Nicasio was excellent and did his part in trying to secure the Cardinals a postseason berth. He struck out a batter per inning in 11 innings and only issued two free passes. He became a free agent after the Cardinals failed to make the playoffs.
The trade that sent Luke Voit to the New York Yankees on July 29, 2018, netted the Cardinals Shreve as the main piece in the return. He was trying to find his footing in 2018 after an adequate 2017 with the Yankees. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Shreve continued to sputter and lost most of his control, walking nine in only 14.2 innings.
The Cardinals designated Shreve for assignment on March 22, 2019, and he went unclaimed. After returning to the major leagues from Memphis in 2019, Shreve threw two innings, giving up two hits and two earned runs. He was designated for assignment again on July 23 and was again unclaimed.
Gallegos was the unheralded piece in the Voit deal, and after being less than impressive in his time with the Yankees, the Cardinals saw something they liked and acquired him. Gallegos has paid massive dividends so far this season and could turn out to be the best reliever Mozeliak ever traded for if he maintains his current performance.
Gallegos has allowed a minuscule 28 hits in 50.2 innings and has struck out a whopping 72 batters and issued 10 walks. It’s too early to know if this is the norm, but the Cardinals could have a closer on their hands if this continues.
In all, Mozeliak’s trade history when getting relief arms hasn’t been spectacular, and his pickups of free-agent relievers perhaps even less so. Nothing is really expected of Cingrani at this point, but Gallegos might be a star in the making. After the deadline’s massive letdown for the Cardinals, fans might be grasping at anything, but there doesn’t look to be much more than air this year. Maybe Zac Rosscup and Adalberto Mejia will surprise.