The Cardinals added a solid bullpen depth option in Josh James on a minor league contract this past week. It's a solid high-upside zero-risk move for the Cardinals. If James is healthy, he could slot in as a high-leverage option with plus velocity and strikeout stuff. But if he's hurt or ineffective, he can be let go at no cost. The Cardinals still need to add one more veteran relief option, but James' deal is a model to follow for other minor league deals. By adding once-effective or injury-prone relievers on cheap minor-league contracts, the Cardinals could have more options for later in the season.
With so many bullpen options, the Memphis shuttle is sure to be running this season. Despite being in the Cardinals' future plans, many solid pitching options will have to open 2024 in Triple-A. Here are three Cardinals pitchers who will begin the year at Triple-A and three who will not.
Andre Pallante will be on the Opening Day roster
Andre Pallante's emergence in 2022 was one of the biggest revelations in a successful NL Central winning season. After breaking camp with the team, Pallante impressed and was never sent back down. In 47 appearances, Pallante threw 108 innings as a starter and a reliever, pitching to a 3.17 ERA. He did outperform his peripherals and had a bit of a walk problem, but was still a solid high-leverage option with a fantastic ground ball rate.
However, 2023 was much rockier for Pallante. His walk rate worsened, and despite still eating 68 innings, Pallante's 4.76 ERA marked significant regression. He did receive a demotion in mid-April, when the team was performing at its worst, but still spent most of the season on the Major League roster.
As an innings eater, Pallante definitely still has a place in the Cardinals' bullpen in 2024, but he might be even better than that. He's been working diligently this offseason on a "death-ball" pitch, a higher velocity curveball designed to complement his great fastball, and a somewhat ineffective slider. If this pitch works well for him, we could see a reformed Pallante in 2024 capable of pitching high-leverage innings in the Postseason, just like in 2022.