Moving Matthew Liberatore to the bullpen may have a huge payoff for the Cardinals

While I wouldn't give up on Matthew Liberatore as a starter long-term, his best role with St. Louis in 2024 may be in the bullpen.

St. Louis Cardinals v Tampa Bay Rays
St. Louis Cardinals v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

If the St. Louis Cardinals were planning on rebuilding in 2024, I think Matthew Liberatore would be a strong candidate for the rotation next year. It's easy to forget that he doesn't turn 24 until November, and still has plenty of time to develop as a starting pitcher at the Major League level.

There is certainly an argument for Liberatore to spend his 2024 season in Memphis, continuing to refine his arsenal and work on maintaining his fastball velocity across 5-6 innings of work. Should the Cardinals choose to do that, it would be a great benefit to Liberatore's overall development long-term. The Cardinals have been quick to pigeonhole starters into relief roles, so avoiding that is not a bad idea.

Yet, Liberatore has already made 18 Major League starts in his young career, and overall, it's gone poorly. He has a 6.06 ERA at the big league level for his career, and outside of his elite start against the Tampa Bay Rays, it's mostly looked really bad.

At the same time though, Liberatore could be an impactful arm in St. Louis immediately if he refines his skill set in a 1-2 innings usage role, with the hope that he can stretch himself out again in 2025 or beyond. For the Cardinals, for as weak as their rotation looks at the moment, their bullpen also needs help going into next season as well. With Drew Rom slated to stay in the rotatoin as of now, it appears Liberatore's recent call-up will result in bullpen usage anyway.

Ryan Helsley, JoJo Romero, and Giovanny Gallegos will surely factor into their late-inning plans next season, but beyond those names, things get pretty thing. Andre Pallante and John King could find roles with the club, but neither is viewed as a quality option at the moment. Wilking Rodriguez or Guillermo Zuniga could be factors as well, but neither has proven anything at the Major League level either.

There are some interesting arms coming through the system who could find their way into the Cardinals' bullpen as well, but honestly, their options are very thin at the moment. They'll surely need to bring in an arm or two this offseason, but they really do need a few internal options to step up for their Opening Day roster, let alone to have the depth to cover an entire season with injuries and regression from arms that you did not expect.

Enter Liberatore.

Zack Thompson made a name for himself last year out of the bullpen with a mid-90s fastball and devastating curveball. Lately, he's shown the ability to translate that stuff into a rotation role, so I imagine the Cardinals will want him to do that again next year. Beyond Thompson, Dakota Hudson is surely ahead of Liberatore on the depth chart right now as well, and they still have other options like Drew Rom, Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Adam Kloffenstein, Sem Robberse, and perhaps even Tekoah Roby and Tink Hence later next year as well.


While ending all hopes of Liberatore as a starter would be unwise, I do think putting a pin in those aspirations to see if he can be a high-impact reliever would be worthwhile for St. Louis. Liberatore has had trouble maintaining his stuff throughout the entirety of a start, but in short stints, it shouldn't be difficult for him to maintain his fastball velocity and pair that with his better off-speed stuff.

It remains to be seen how the Cardinals view him in both the near and long-term for the club, but for now, I do see value in exploring Liberatore as a reliever for the time being.