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
St. Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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Tier 1

Tier 1 guys are truly top-of-the-market talents, guys who are among the very best in today's game. These guys would cost a ton of money in free agency or a massive trade package to bring to St. Louis.

Emmanuel Clase

The Cleveland Guardians are reportedly listening to trade offers on their elite closer, and with so many years of team control remaining, they are not going to trade Emmanuel Clase without a ransom.

In four big league seasons and across 238.1 innings of work, Clase has a 2.00 ERA, consistently shutting down opposing lineups and either finishing the game for the Guardians or keeping them in the game. He's led all of baseball in both games finished and saves the last two seasons, making him one of the most dependable relievers in baseball both performance and health-wise.

If the Cardinals wanted Clase, it would take a major piece to get it done, and I just do not see St. Louis paying that kind of price right now. If the Cardinals were to add him though, Clase and Helsley would be the best bullpen duo in baseball and help shorten games for St. Louis in a big way.

Josh Hader

Speaking of a guy who would be an excellent reliever for the Cardinals, Josh Hader is now a free agent and available for any team to sign.

Cardinals fans know Hader all too well from his days with the Brewers, shutting down opposing teams with ease and posting an insane 15.0 SO/9 over his career.

When Hader was traded to the Padres in 2022, that whole season went south for him, as he finished the year with a 5.22 ERA after posting a 1.23 ERA the year prior. Well in 2023, he was back to himself, posting a 1.28 ERA and finishing 52 games for the Padres.

Hader will turn 30 in a few months and is going to command a historic contract for a relief pitcher. Not only are the Cardinals 100% not going to make that move, but I would also be very against it for them as well. Giving a relief pitcher a $100 million contract or $20 million or more annually is an absurd number and something the Cardinals can avoid altogether. I would guess this contract ends up aging very poorly, so the Cardinals are wise to stay out of his market.

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