The Cardinals have struck gold at bolstering their middle relief core

It has been under-the-radar trades and signings that have helped turn the Cardinals' bullpen into one of the most reliable in baseball.
Cincinnati Reds  v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages
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The Cardinals acquired Andrew Kittredge in a trade this offseason

On January 5, the Cardinals acquired the veteran Kittredge in a trade with the Rays in exchange for outfielder Richie Palacios. What made this move perplexing at first was the status of Kittredge's health, who was limited to just 31 and two-thirds innings over the past two seasons, and he was also going into his age 34 season. But so far so good for Kittredge in a Cardinal uniform

Kittredge had to earn his way to get to the big leagues, as he was a 45th-round pick in 2008 by the Mariners, it took him 9 years after that before he finally got to the big leagues with the Rays in 2017. 2021 was far and away Kittredges best campaign, as he had a 9-3 record with a 1.88 ERA in 57 appearances, he was selected to the All-Star Game.

He has struggled with health since that All-Star season but that fact was what allowed the Cardinals to buy low on him, along with him going into the final season of his contract. The Cardinals were able to intrigue Tampa with Richie Palacios, who impressed in a small sample size with the Cardinals last season, they were able to sell high on him. He has been decent for Tampa, a .241/.338/.335 slash line in a career-high 69 games, but there wasn't a place for him in the Cardinals' crowded outfield, they were able to use him for someone the Cardinals needed.

Kittredge has been used a lot this season, and the overall line of work has been superb. In 39 games he has a 3.22 ERA and a 129 ERA+ and has mostly been pitching as a set-up man late in games. He is on pace to comfortably surpass his career high in appearances if he can stay healthy. And with the injuries to Riley O'Brien and Keynan Middleton limiting those two to one combined appearance this year, and Giovanny Gallegos having a down year, it makes the Kittredge trade more and more valuable for the Cardinals this season.