With the St. Louis Cardinals payroll constraints, free-agent relievers Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Clippard could be the type of low-cost options that would help boost their 2020 bullpen.
The St. Louis Cardinals front office, led by the President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak, have told anyone who cares to listen, they will not be making a major Free Agent move during this current offseason. The Cardinals seem committed not to expand the current payroll and without a major trade, it seems there is little room for another Paul Goldschmidt like move.
I’m sure there are players the Cardinals would like to move, and we all can guess who they are. However, the takers are few, if any. So where does that leave the Cardinals this offseason? What moves could be available for them and stay within their self impose payroll constraints?
Historically, the Cardinals always add pieces to their bullpen during an offseason. Usually, they find a low-cost piece or two to compliment the bullpen. I don’t see why this offseason will be any different.
Relievers Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Clippard are both free agents who would likely fit into the Cardinals budget. Neither are household names, but signing both could upgrade the 2020 bullpen.
Pomeranz would’ve beefed up the left-handed side of the bullpen
Just looking at left-handed Drew Pomeranz’s career stats doesn’t give one confidence in his ability to help the current Cardinals bullpen. However, looking at Pomeranz as a reliever, you walk away with a different impression.
Of course, right as you are about to finish a piece, the player gets signed. That is what happened this morning when Pomeranz signed a four-year deal with the Padres.
The 31-year old, Pomeranz, came into the majors as a starter with the Rockies in 2011. From then until his trade to the Brewers last year, he had an up and down career primarily as a starter. His 2016 ERA of 2.47 ERA with the Padres earned him an All-Star appearance before he was traded to the Red Sox. In 2017, he had his best complete year as a starter with a 17-6 record and a 3.32 ERA.
Since 2017, he struggled as a member of the rotation in Boston and San Francisco, before being traded last year to the Brewers. Demoted to the bullpen in 2019, he pitched over 28 innings in 28 appearances for a 1.88 ERA. He had a SO/9 ratio of 15.7 and opponents were only able to hit a ..165 BA.
Why was Pomeranz so successful going from the rotation to the bullpen? He had five pitches, but only two were good, his fastball and curveball. By concentrating on these after his trade to Milwaukee, he made himself into possibly one of the best relievers in the game.
The St. Louis Cardinals currently have five lefties on their 40-man roster. Genesis Cabrera, Brett Cecil, Austin Gomber, Andrew Miller, and Tyler Webb. With the injury issues of Cecil and Gomber, MIller’s declining skills, Pomeranz would’ve been the most effective and reliable lefty coming out of the Cardinals bullpen.
Now in hindsight, a four-year deal for a lefty who has an injury history and is already 31 is something that I don’t think many people will complain that the Cardinals stayed away from. Upgrade or not, that’s a steep price. There are other relievers to grab for the left side.
Tyler Clippard would shore up the other side of the bullpen
The 34-year old right-handed Tyler Clippard has been a steady bullpen piece his entire career. In 13 years and 739 games, he has a 2.96 ERA with 68 saves included. Opponents only hit a .192 BA and he has a SO/9 of 10.2.
Seemingly trying to prove he is not slowing down last year with the Indians, he pitched 62 innings in 53 games and had a 2.38 ERA as a reliever. Clippard also only allowed opponents a .173 ERA and his SO/9 for 2019 was 9.4.
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All though not used primarily as a closer, his career 68 saves would give the Cardinals another late-inning option. In 8 save situations in 2019, Clippard allowed opponents only a .143 BA and with runners in scoring position he inherited, he allowed only a .238 ERA.
Therefore, Clippard would be another effective piece for manager Mike Shildt to call upon in late innings. Clippard’s long experience gives Shildt another possible option for the Cardinals philosophy of ‘closer by committee.’
Both are cost-effective low-risk options
Neither would break the bank for the Cardinals to bring on board. Clippard was signed last year on a minor league contract by the Indians and eventually made $1.75 million in 2019. Pomeranz pitched last year on a $1.5 million one year contract and could have earned an additional $3.5million with incentives.
Again, as I finished this article, a report from Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic says Drew Pomeranz and the San Diego Padres have come to terms on a four-year contract. Timing stinks.
Whether Pomeranz and Clippard have found a place to play in 2020 or not, my point is the Cardinals will have low-cost, low-risk options available for them in the free-agent market who could make an impact in 2020.
Usually, they like off-season bullpen moves, and I expect to see a bullpen signing or trade before the start of Spring Training. Whatever the move is, it’s likely to fit in their self-imposed payroll constraints.