As the St. Louis Cardinals continue to search for bullpen help this offseason, one under-the-radar player has not been mentioned at all but could be the perfect fit to anchor the reliever core: Carlos Estevez. Estevez was named an All-Star in 2022 for the Los Angeles Angels after a fantastic first half but trailed off in the second half as did the disappointing Angels.
One reason the Cardinals haven't been tied to Estevez or any of the Angels' promising arms is because the Angels plan to compete in 2024. However, after losing Shohei Ohtani to the neighboring Dodgers and not making any meaningful moves so far, it's unlikely the 73-89 team will see improvements in 2024. Estevez will reach free agency again at the end of the offseason, so it would be a smart play to trade him now and reset their decimated farm system. If not, the Cardinals can simply wait until the Trade Deadline, where the Angels will almost certainly be sellers.
Since returning from injuries in 2019, Estevez has been as consistent as a reliever can. In his four full seasons, not including the pandemic-shortened 2020, he never posted an ERA+ below 110 pitching for the Rockies and Angels, two teams not well-known for good pitching development. Estevez boasts elite fastball velocity as well as top-tier whiff rates and barrel rates. Walks have been problematic for him in the past, but he fits the mold of swing-and-miss pitchers the Cardinals want to focus on adding this offseason.
He's making just under $7 million in 2023, and wouldn't cost more than a mid-tier prospect or two. For a backend reliever to pair with Helsley, Romero, and Kittredge, Estevez would be the perfect under-the-radar option for St. Louis next year. Whether it's during the offseason or at the Trade Deadline, securing Estevez's services must be under consideration by the front office.