The St. Louis Cardinals found a starter but now are looking to add to their bullpen. Rasiel Iglesias should be at the top of their list.
John Mozeliak brought St. Louis Cardinals fans a welcome surprise this week by signing Steven Matz to a very reasonable four-year, $44 million deal. This action from the Cardinals’ front office ahead of both Thanksgiving and the impending MLB lockout is a welcome change from last year’s holding pattern.
This is just one sign that the Cardinals are not going to stay complacent with their roster and will look to improve on their 2021 season. What, then, could be next?
Per our own Robert Murray here at Redbird Rants, the next target for the Cardinals is a late-inning leverage reliever.
In John Mozeliak’s tenure, exploring that role has not been fruitful through free agency. Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, and Greg Holland all were free-agent flops (expensive ones at that), but that doesn’t mean that the next signing can’t right the trend.
The best and most likely option when looking at late-inning relievers is Luis Garcia, who jumped into a great role after he was signed in the middle of last summer. Despite his great year, he’ll still be a reasonably affordable option. However, if Mo is going to go big, the best fit out there is former Cincinnati Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias.
Iglesias, 31, spent 2021 with the Angels after spending his first six years in the league throwing against the Cardinals in Cincinnati. A hard-throwing righty, Iglesias has been an underrated reliever for a long time. His 2.57 ERA in 70 innings in 2021 was not even top three in his career but it was good enough to finish 11th in AL Cy Young voting.
Digging deeper, Iglesias had an electric 13.2 K/9 has now put forth three straight years of at least 12.0 K/9. He balanced that in 2021 with a 1.5 BB/9 and a WHIP under 0.930 which were huge factors in him converting 34 saves.
This was no fluke either. Iglesias’s Baseball Savant landing page is full of bright red, with the highlights being his 99th percentile whiff percentage and a strikeout percentage, walk percentage, xwOBA, and chase rate all 96th percentile or higher.
Iglesias’s career ERA is right around 3.00, but he’s never been given much of a chance to play for a great team. In 2022, that could change for him if the Cardinals want to pay the steep price for the closer.
Iglesias is easily the top reliever on the market this winter and has already declined the Angels $18.4 million qualifying offer. That means that Iglesias would have a draft pick attached to him and likely an AAV over that first offer for multiple years.
Historically, paying big for a closer is a dangerous game, but when it works, it really works. The Cardinals will likely be scared off by the price tag, draft pick, and the fact Iglesias is about to turn 32. However, the pure fan on me can’t help but dream of what he’d let new Cardinals manager Oli Marmol do at the end of games.
Adding Iglesias to Giovanny Gallegos, Alex Reyes, and Genesis Cabrera from the 7th inning on would push the Cardinals’ bullpen into the class of the National League. Iglesias has three years of at least 30 saves, making him an easy plug-and-play option at closer, freeing up everyone else to float around.
This is a pipe dream, as the Cardinals were already scared off of some starters due to the price and draft pick stipulation. Once again, though, if the Cardinals are looking to put the gas pedal all the way down and don’t like the rest of their options, Iglesias is the guy to go for.