About this time last year, the St. Louis Cardinals were in dire need of pitching help. Adam Wainwright was out for the year, Jake Westbrook was struggling, and the bullpen was like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.
Once again, this season, the Cards need some reinforcements for their pitching staff. Chris Carpenter is out for the year, Jaime Garcia is out until mid-August (best case) and the bullpen has been up and down, particularly from the left side.
Last year, they dealt away Colby Rasmus and other spare parts to acquire Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski. Rzep, known as “Scrabble” to many fans, became the top lefty specialist; Dotel took over the “fireman” role, often coming in to get strikeouts in key situations. We know how well that deal worked out for the Cardinals.
Here we are in 2012, and the Birds on the Bat need a similar deal. Scrabble has struggled this year. Rookie Barret Browning has done quite well so far, but will it last? Brian Fuentes was recently added to the roster in hopes he has something left. Since Fuentes was dumped by the Oakland A’s, I’m a bit skeptical. But hey, he can’t be any worse than J.C. Romero, right?
At closer, Jason Motte has been solid. Mitchell Boggs has a nice scoreless streak going, but I’m just not sure he is the right guy to take over Dotel’s role from 2011. Fernando Salas, such a rock last year, pitched so poorly earlier this year he was sent to Triple-A Memphis (although he has improved since being recalled). Victor Marte was used heavily the first two months of the season and wore down. He was sent down earlier this week to make room for Fuentes. The remaining bullpen spot has been a revolving door that need to be slammed shut (paging Chuck Norris!).
With that in mind, here are three relievers the Cardinals should target who would solidify their bullpen for another stretch run:
1) Matt Belisle, Colorado Rockies – The Rockies are reluctant to trade the consistent Belisle, as he is signed to a club-friendly deal through 2013 with a mutual option for 2014. With Todd Helton nearing the end of the road and Allen Craig looking like the long-term first baseman in St. Louis, first base prospect Matt Adams should be enough to pry Belisle away.
2) Wade Davis, Tampa Bay – Davis would be starting for most teams in baseball, but he has done well out of the pen this year, pitching to a 2.70 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. Adams also should be enough for the Rays, who have got to be sick and tired of Carlos Pena and his anemic production.
3) Jason Marquis, San Diego - Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. Put the sharp object down, please. Luke Gregerson is the guy to get from the Padres. The former Cardinal farmhand has been the epitome of steadiness in San Diego, pitching to a 1.12 WHIP the past three seasons and striking out over a batter per inning. Gregerson likely would come at a cheaper cost than Belisle or Davis (Robert Stock maybe?). Plus, bringing him back to the Cardinals would help negate the disastrous Khalil Greene trade.
Any of these relievers would be capable of assuming the fireman role so capably filled last year by Dotel. I don’t expect a huge trade like last year’s Colby Rasmus deal, but we know that Cards GM John Mozeliak is unafraid to make moves to bolster his team’s roster. If Mozeliak is able to patch his team’s bullpen as well as he did in 2011, the Cardinals would again become the most complete team in the NL Central. As well as the Pirates and Reds are playing right now, it’s becoming clear that the Cardinals need to make a move before the deadline if they want to keep pace.