Joe Kelly might be too expensive for the St. Louis Cardinals

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Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning of Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Truist Park on October 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Joe Kelly #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning of Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Truist Park on October 17, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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Joe Kelly might be too expensive for the St. Louis Cardinals, which means John Mozeliak may need to get creative to upgrade the bullpen.

As the St. Louis Cardinals search for bullpen help, the names that have been connected to them include Joe Kelly, Ryan Tepera, Collin McHugh and to a lesser extent, Kenley Jansen.

Of the names, Kelly has been the most prominently linked. After all, he’s played in St. Louis, has extensive experience in high-leverage situations and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.86 ERA in 44 innings. Which are all things that the Cardinals will surely covet.

But Katie Woo of The Athletic writes that while she believes Kelly is a strong fit for the Cardinals, she is not sure that the front office “would fork over the money necessary to land him on a multi-year deal.”

Perhaps the writing for this was on the wall when the Cardinals let Luis Garcia, one of their best relievers in 2021, sign a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the San Diego Padres earlier this winter. But it’s still relatively surprising that the Cardinals wouldn’t be willing to pay Kelly, a much more established reliever, roughly $6-7 million per season on a multi-year deal.

It points to the Cardinals going to cheaper alternatives in the bullpen, with Woo listing right-hander Brad Boxberger as a possibility. The Cardinals have been burned by high-priced bullpen additions in the past (Brett Cecil, Andrew Miller and others) and it’s possible that it has made them gunshy about doing so again.

Still, not signing a prominent name such as Kelly or Tepera is a risk when the bullpen is easily the Cardinals’ most glaring hole. Maybe they use the money saved to add a higher priced bat or starting pitcher. After all, they have been loosely linked to Kyle Schwarber, Nelson Cruz, Yusei Kikuchi and others in recent days, but that appeared to be speculation more than anything.

Next. MLB Insider thinks St. Louis Cardinals should sign these two relievers. dark

But it’s very unlikely the Cardinals sign either Schwarber or Cruz. They appear seriously interested in pouring significant resources in the rotation, evidenced by the Steven Matz signing, so nothing should be ruled out there. But it appears we should cool the Joe Kelly-to-St. Louis rumors.

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