While Spring Training is just a few weeks away, the St. Louis Cardinals are rounding up their roster and continuing to make additions to their bullpen mix, with the latest move being a minor-league deal for former Astros reliever Josh James.
James is a high-velocity reliever who produces a lot of swing-and-miss, but has not appeared in an MLB game since 2021 and did not pitch in 2023 after flexor tendon surgery in October of 2022. He found a role in the Astros bullpen from 2018-2021 and appeared in 18 postseason games during that timeframe. With this being a minor league deal, the Cardinals are bringing James into the organization to see if he recaptures his old form and if not, he does not get in the way of them adding more arms or using other arms they've acquired this offseason.
It remains to be seen if this ends the Cardinals' search for bullpen help this offseason, but assuming they want to go out and add one more arm on a Major League contract, this seems like a low-risk, potentially nice reward move for the bullpen. Fields joins Andrew Kittredge, Nick Robertson, Ryan Fernandez, and Riley O'Brien as arms they've acquired this offseason to strengthen their reliever depth.
One of the common themes you'll see with these pitchers is a lot more swing and miss than what the Cardinals have had in their bullpen in recent years, as well as a lot of "low-risk" contracts to go with it. They've run into trouble in the past signing bigger name relievers like Andrew Miller, Brett Cecil, and Greg Holland, and so have opted for targeting a wider variety of arms to see how many pan out. They really should still pursue one more established bullpen arm to solidify that mix, but it's encouraging to see how many options they have going into 2024.
Bullpen depth is needed for the 162-game season, and 15 or so arms that they can realistically see competing for a bullpen spot gives the Cardinals more "shots" and finding a great mix that can help them compete during the season and in the playoffs as well.