From top to bottom, the St. Louis Cardinals offseason pitching additions have been a failure — and they can’t make the same mistake again.
This offseason, I was firm in my stance that the St. Louis Cardinals should consider adding a bonafide bullpen arm along the lines of Ryan Tepera or Joe Kelly. Instead, they made marginal upgrades in the bullpen while spending the majority of their money on Steven Matz.
Their six offseason additions: Matz, Drew VerHagen, Nick Wittgren, Aaron Brooks, Packy Naughton and T.J. McFarland. They have combined for a 6.24 ERA and a -2.4 WAR, as Scott Warren pointed out on Twitter.
Matz, of course, was the biggest addition and to date, has been a disaster. In nine starts, he has a 6.03 ERA. While his 4.27 FIP and 44/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio indicate that he has pitched better than his ballooned ERA, the Cardinals expected a lot more from their $44 million pitcher. But he’s been on the IL with a left shoulder impingement and while he threw his first bullpen on Friday, is still weeks away from returning.
The bullpen is arguably the Cardinals’ biggest need at the trade deadline and as the offseason failures underscore, they can’t rely on marginal relievers to drastically upgrade it. So far, VerHagen looks like a complete whiff with a 6.30 ERA. McFarland, who has been used a lot by manager Oli Marmol, has also been a miss after a surprising 2021 season.
Yes, the Cardinals rank in the top half of baseball in bullpen ERA, but they will need to make multiple additions to have a chance at advancing in the postseason. That means adding proven veteran relievers, not cheap lottery tickets. They have too much invested in this season – Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are in their primes – while Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright and Albert Pujols are in their final seasons.
They can’t make the same mistake twice. Because right now, their 2021 offseason pitching additions look like a giant miss.