Cardinals bullpen: Who is in and who is likely fighting for a job in Spring Training?

The Cardinals have brought in a ton of arms since July, and now it's time to figure out how their bullpen will shape up with all of the new faces.
St. Louis Cardinals v Kansas City Royals
St. Louis Cardinals v Kansas City Royals / Ed Zurga/GettyImages
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Who is in?

Ryan Helsley, Andrew Kittredge, Keynan Middleton, Giovanny Gallegos, and JoJo Romero

The group of Helsley, Kittredge, Middleton, Gallegos, and Romero will all be on the Cardinals Opening Day roster barring an injury, and each of them profile as "high-leverage" arms for St. Louis this season.

Think back to last year. Even with guys like Helsley, Gallegos, Hicks, and Romero, it was rare for the Cardinals to have more than two relievers at any given time that they could "trust" in big spots. Helsley was injured, Gallegos wasn't himself for long stretches, Hicks was terrible in April and then traded in July, and Romero did not establish himself as that kind of reliever until the end of the second half of the season.

While it's unlikely that all five guys will remain healthy and effective all season (bullepns rarely have that kind of predictablitly), the Cardinals do have five different names who you can feel confident calling upon in big spots, something they were not able to say at any point last season.

Helsley, without a doubt, is a top 5 reliever in baseball when he is healthy. Having that kind of weapon at the back end of the bullpen, a guy who is going to shut things down almost every time he is out there will be such a boost to this team and something they badly missed in 2023.

While there is hope that Gallegos bounces back in 2024, the Cardinals now have two other right-handed pitchers who have found major success at the big league level. Middleton has elite whiff rates and really established himself as a high-leverage reliever with both the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees last season. Andrew Kittredge came over in the Richie Palacios trade, also boasting great whiff rates, and was a dominant reliever for the Rays before Tommy John surgery.

Add in Romero from the left-side, and the Cardinals have to be feeling good about that mix of arms as they head into Spring Training. Five out of the eight bullpen arms they'll carry on Opening Day should be guys who can come in and get outs in big spots, something they sorely need if they want to contend in 2024.