4 tiers of bullpen upgrades the Cardinals could make this offseason

The Cardinals are still looking to address their bullpen this offseason, and there are four distinct tiers of arms that they could pursue.
St. Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Tier 4

Tier 4 are guys who will likely come on cheap contracts and are looking to bounce back from a down year or work their way back from a major injury. These contracts would be low-risk with a potentially high reward, and the expectations for any of these players when they are signed are minimal. The Cardinals would hope they could become a meaningful part of the bullpen, but the other tiers are where they find more "sure things".

Trevor Rosenthal

Most Cardinals fans remember Trevor Rosenthal from his dominant stretch with the Cardinals from 2012-2017, where he posted a 2.99 ERA and 121 saves in 325 innings of work. He’s always been a major swing-and-miss guy, boasting a career 12.1 SO/9, and has carried that into his most recent seasons as well.

Rosenthal has not pitched in a Major League game since 2020 and is currently working his way back from elbow surgery after he had an injury setback while attempting a comeback with the Tigers in 2023. Rosenthal is expected to be ready for game action in the summer of 2024, so he could provide the Cardinals with a midseason reinforcement. Rosenthal is not likely to command a significant contract, so it’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward move for St. Louis.

I caught up with Rosenthal alongside site contributors Andrew Wang and Sandy McMillian on the Noot News Podcast recently, and it sounds like he is open to a reunion with the Cardinals if they come calling.

John Brebbia (last strain for 2 1/2 months then poor finish)

Another former Cardinal, Brebbia was a solid piece of the St. Louis bullpen from 2017-2019, posting a 3.14 ERA in 124.2 innings for the club. He has pitched for the Giants the last few years, and after a career year in 2022, he had his struggles in 2023.

He missed about two and a half months of the season with a lat strain, and upon his return, just was not himself on the mound. Brebbia has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in all but one of his six big league seasons, so he would add a dependable piece to their bullpen if he can bounce back.

Matt Barnes

Matt Barnes is no stronger to high-leverage innings, serving as a closer for the Boston Red Sox at various points in his career before being shipped to Miami for the 2023 season.

Barnes really struggled in 2023 as was far from the All-Star form he had back in 2021. He posted a 5.48 ERA in just 21.1 innings of work for Miami, and his season ended with major hip surgery. Barnes should be ready to pitch come Spring Training, but that hip injury will likely prevent him from getting a guaranteed contract with a big league club. He could be worth an invite or minor league deal if the Cardinals want his veteran presence in the bullpen in 2024, and if things go well, he could work himself into a significant late-inning role.

Liam Hendricks

After making an incredible return to baseball after dealing with stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Liam Hendricks had to undergo Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined for most if not all of 2024.

While Hendricks could pitch again in September, the Cardinals could look to sign him to a two-year down, with the 2024 salary being lower than 2025, allowing Hendricks to rehab with them for the year and then come back for a rebound season in 2025.