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 on the bubble?

Nick Robertson, John King, Andre Pallante, Riley O'Brien, Josh James, and Drew Rom

If I end up being correct about who is in and who is probably in the bullpen come Opening Day, the Cardinals just have one spot remaining in their bullpen to fill, and that would go to one of Robertson, King, Pallante, O'Brien, James, Rom, or the other of Thompson and Liberatore.

Again, I want to point out how much of a difference this is from the 2023 season. On Opening Day, the Cardinals had Packy Naughton and Drew VerHagen in the mix, while this year I'm not sure either would make the bullpen at all. Naughton did receive a non-roster invite to Spring Training this year alongside names like Wilking Rodriguez, Ryan Loutos, Tink Hence, Tekoah Roby, Logan Sawyer, Connor Thomas, Gordon Graceffo, and Andrew Granillo, but I think it would take excellent springs from that group and a clear void for them to push their way into the mix.

The biggest common denominator with this group is that each of them has options that allow the Cardinals to start them out in Memphis and bring them up later as desired. Pallante, Rom, and Robertson all have two options remaining, while O'Brien and King have one option remaining. Josh James was signed on a minor-league deal, so the Cardinals would have to add him to the 40-man roster if he was going to make the team (and he wasn't invited to big-league camp to begin the Spring).

King was really good for the Cardinals after coming over in the Jordan Montgomery/Chris Stratton trade, but with low upside and not great underlying metrics in 2023, I think Liberatore or Thompson would get the edge in the running for that second left-handed reliever spot.

Robertson was acquired in the Tyler O'Neill trade and boasts a great fastball-slider combination, much like O'Brien who the Cardinals got from Seattle. Both guys will surely factor into the bullpen during the season, but it's unclear if that will begin on Opening Day.

If I had to guess, the favorite from this group to make the Opening Day roster should be Andre Pallante, someone who the Cardinals really like and who can fill multiple roles for them. In 2022, Pallante provided them innings in the rotation, a long-relief role, and as a high-leverage arm, and that kind of flexibility is something they really value. While Pallante struggled in 2023, he's been making changes to his arsenal to produce more strikeouts. He's still a ground ball pitcher, but adding some swing and miss will go a long way.

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