Cardinals' offseason acquisition is already proving his worth

Andrew Kittredge has stabilized the bullpen with his reliable performances late in games.
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals swung a trade this offseason to bolster their bullpen. In a move that was questionable at the time, the Cardinals sent prospect Richie Palacios to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a former All-Star reliever in Andrew Kittredge.

Fans immediately protested the trade; why would John Mozeliak trade away a controllable utility player with 6 years of control who showed a penchant for success in 2023 for a reliever coming off a major surgery who is aging?

Kittredge, 34, was entering his final year of arbitration, and he agreed to a contract valued at just over $2.25 million. He would slot in near the back of the bullpen, and he would receive ample high-leverage opportunities. Kittredge, hopefully, would settle a volatile group of relievers.

He's done exactly that just 18 games into the season. In (just) 7 innings, Kittredge has already racked up 9 strikeouts and as many holds. He has come in late in games in each of his 8 appearances, and he has set up Ryan Helsley for a save. Kittredge has not taken the Cardinals out of contention when he has appeared.

Upon closer inspection, Kittredge is doing everything right. He has struck out 34.6% of batters while walking only 7.7% of them; additionally, he is only allowing one baserunner per inning pitched, so he isn't making his life complicated.

As he has for his entire career, Andrew Kittredge has been leaning on his sinker-slider combination. Those two pitches account for nearly 90% of his offerings thus far, and they have been excellent. His slider has a .176 batting average against, and he has used it primarily to put away hitters. Kittredge's sinker has generated groundballs at an absurd 66.7% rate. Kittredge's fastball, while it isn't his most reliable pitch, has generated soft contact with an average exit velocity of just 65.4 MPH.

Andrew Kittredge has solidified the back end of the the Cardinals' bullpen. With Ryan Helsley exclusively being used as a traditional closer, Keynan Middleton currently injured, and Andre Pallante and Giovanny Gallegos struggling to get started, Kittredge's successes in the 7th and 8th innings have been imperative. He has already proven his worth after a somewhat controversial trade in the offseason.