Drew VerHagen (free agency)
Drew VerHagen doesn't get the recognition that he deserves. He signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract in the 2021-2022 offseason that expired at the end of the 2023 season. He experienced some highs and lows, but his tenure in St. Louis was satisfactory given his role and salary.
VerHagen signed with St. Louis after spending two years in Japan playing for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. He initially started his professional career in Detroit with the Tigers as a starting pitcher. For those of you who go to Trivia Nights often, VerHagen was the first official signing after the lockout was lifted in 2022.
While in Japan, VerHagen was known for an above-average strikeout rate with a better-than-average walk rate; he was primarily signed as a groundball pitcher who could help the team's sterling defense put their gloves to work.
His stint in St. Louis, however brief it may have been, was a mixed bag. His first season featured him pitching in only 21.2 innings due to various hip and shoulder injuries. He finished 2022 with a 6.65 ERA, 1.892 WHIP, and he walked nearly as many batters as he struck out.
2023 was much improved for the right-handed reliever. In sixty-one innings, VerHagen struck out sixty batters against twenty-six walks, and he finished the season with a 3.98 ERA, 4.93 FIP, and 1.279 WHIP. The discrepancy between his ERA and FIP indicates some assistance by the Cardinals' defense, which is why he was signed in the first place.
Drew VerHagen signed a two-year, $8 million deal to return to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters; the second year is a player option. VerHagen's services will be missed next year in the bullpen, especially given his price. The veteran reliever seemed to have figured something out in 2023, and he was finally healthy for most of the season.