The St. Louis Cardinals have signed pitcher Drew VerHagen to two-year deal.
The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping lightning strikes twice as they dipped back into the Nippon Professional Baseball League to snag right-handed pitcher Drew VerHagen from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. The Cardinals’ last foray into the NPB netted them Miles Mikolas, who has been a steady presence since he signed in December 2017 from the Yomiuri Giants.
The Cardinals were the first team to make a transaction after the lockout ended on March 10. The 31-year-old VerHagen, a member of the Detroit Tigers from 2014 to 2019, signed a two-year contract for $5.5 million. He had a 3.51 ERA in Japan in 207.2 innings pitched, with 215 strikeouts.
VerHagen is a groundball pitcher, which should be a benefit with the defensively apt infielders behind him. In his six seasons with Detroit, he had an ERA of 5.11 in 199 innings and served up 29 bombs while netting 156 strikeouts.
VerHagen’s main pitch is his sinker, which puts him in good company with other Cardinals pitchers despite the league’s overall move away from the pitch. His Baseball Savant page compares him with Michael Wacha in 2019, Wacha’s last season with the Cardinals. He also possesses a sharply breaking curveball that, in 2019, had a vertical break 6.3 inches more than the average curveball.
VerHagen will likely fill a bullpen role and take the place of the departed Luis Garcia, although President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said VerHagen will compete for a spot in the starting rotation.
While Mikolas is the last player from the NPB to play for the Cardinals, the team has also poached players from the Korea Baseball Organization, including Seunghwan Oh and Kwang Hyun Kim, both of whom were productive for the Cardinals for a bit of time.
A Mikolas-like career with the Cardinals is probably the most optimistic outlook for VerHagen, but even if he doesn’t reach that, he has a chance to be a serviceable piece for the team and should accumulate plenty of outs with his grounder-inducing sinker and his curveball.