3) Adam Ottavino
Like Carpenter, Ottavino would technically be returning to the Cardinals, although the former first-rounder's time with the team is often forgotten. In 2010, Ottavino appeared in five games for the Cardinals. He made the only three starts of his career and posted an ERA of 8.46 in 22.1 innings. Ottavino was demoted and reappeared two years later in Colorado after being claimed off waivers. Shortly thereafter, he emerged as a quality reliever and never looked back. Early in the 2023 season, it seemed that Ottavino might pick up his player option for 2024 and remain with the New York Mets. In somewhat of a surprise move, Ottavino declined and elected free agency.
Ottavino is one of the most durable relievers in baseball. In his first season as a full time member of Colorado's bullpen, he appeared in 53 games, racking up 79 innings. He'd top the 60 inning mark in seven of the next eleven seasons, including the past three years. He's only suffered one major injury, which he overcame with relative ease. He also possesses solid strikeout stuff, although his strikeout rate dipped considerably last year. It must also be mentioned that Ottavino has a walk problem, though his high walk rates have not generally caused severe issues, as he's maintained both effectiveness and efficiency.
Ottavino sports a lifetime ERA of 3.42 and has appeared in 664 games. Interestingly, he's only recorded 45 saves. Ottavino has never been the primary closer on his team. His 12 saves in 2023 represented a career high. If the Cardinals were to sign Ottavino, he'd continue to function in a setup role. That's exactly what the Cardinals need. Helsley and Romero are more than capable at the back end. Giovanny Gallegos is also a quality reliever with legitimate strikeout stuff. The Cardinals don't need Ottavino to close out games. They need him to cover innings.
The 2023 Cardinals just ran out of innings. They signed random veteran relievers like Casey Lawrence and Ryan Tepera in the middle of the season. And that was with Drew VerHagen and Chris Stratton, two relievers who were often under-appreciated by fans. In his year with the Cardinals, Stratton ate up 76.1 innings across 62 games. He was a workhorse who made himself available when the team needed somebody to take the mound. In 2023, VerHagen (who, might I add, pitched to a sub 4.00 ERA) made 60 appearances of his own. That lost production is more significant than many let on.
Yes, the Cardinals have added quality pieces, including Andrew Kittredge. However, none of their additions have previously racked up innings the way VerHagen and Stratton have. Ottavino, on the other hand, has been one of the most durable relievers in the league over the past decade. The Cardinals should absolutely be looking for a reliever with his mix of durability and effectiveness.