posted on April 15, 2013 11:43
I hate to come right out of the gate and be Captain Obvious here, but with Cardinal Nation being in “the sky is falling!” mode, it makes sense to address what’s going on in the bullpen. Both losses of the 4-2 homestand were a direct result of a faulty pen and a case can be made that every loss this season – save the Barry Zito debacle – can be hung on the Cardinal relievers (even though Waino absorbed the loss in the season opener).
Mitchell Boggs, who was one of baseball’s most dominant 8th inning men last year, has been an absolute disaster in the closer role this season. Jason Motte’s temporary replacement has been hit hard in three of his seven outings, blown two saves and absorbed a loss. You may remember how he ruined the home opener. He currently owns an 11.37 ERA, a 2.05 WHIP, a 7/6 K/BB ratio and opponents are hitting .280 off of him.
Sure, it’s early and the sample size is small, but Boggs may have Steve Carsay’s disease. Some pitchers are great setup men, but for some reason or another just can’t get the job done in the ninth inning. Closing out a game takes a certain mentality and the stage changes in the ninth inning. Boggs just may not be cut from the closer cloth.
Assuming this isn’t just a hiccup and Boggs does need to be replaced, the next option on the tip of everyone’s tongue would be Trevor Rosenthall. The only problem is, he hasn’t been much better. Rosie and his 100 mph heater have been fun to watch at times this season, but he’s blown a pair of saves as well and served up a two-run homer to Ryan Braun yesterday that started the collapse that Boggs ultimately finished. He has been shaky in three of his seven outings as well, and the pressure may be too much for the inexperienced youngster.
So what are the Cardinals’ options?
Edward Mujica has been the most reliable reliever this season (4 holds, 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP), but doesn’t really fit the closer mold. Plus why would you risk moving your only successful reliever out of the spot where he’s thriving and subject him to the same fate as Boggs and Rosie? There has to be a better option.
Some fans will be anxiously awaiting the May 1st deadline to see if Jason Motte can come back and put out the fire, but this is likely folly. If the history of the Cards’ medical staff tells us anything, they will wait until May 1st , have Motte throw one pitch and then do what they should have done initially: shut him down and prep him for Tommy John surgery. Should that happen, which seems very likely at this point, Motte will miss 12-18 months and may not be able to contribute next year either. Thus making his new 2-year contract an enormous waste of money.
One way to go is to look deeper into the organization. Springfield closer Keith Butler has already moved up to Memphis and has the late-inning pedigree you look for in a stopper. But even if he is an option, he will need some time.
Some are clamoring for Lance Lynn to return to the pen and close games, but that seems like lunacy considering his success as a starter. Who knows if he would even succeed in that role, and I don’t know why you would want to create a new hole just to plug an existing one. Who jumps into the rotation? Joe Kelly? Yeah, because he’s been great so far.
Some might look to Fernando Salas and his 24 saves from 2011, but Salas is no longer that pitcher and appears to just have a dead arm. He’s been tattooed in all but one appearance this season, and I can’t think of a worse option in the ninth inning. Except maybe Ryan Franklin.
To me it seems the most promising option will be to look outside of the organization. Brian Wilson is floating around in baseball purgatory and can likely be had at a discount, but he is the epitome of a wild card. You have absolutely no idea what you’re going to get. Instead of taking a flyer on him I’d like to see John Mozeliak get the Padres on the phone and hash out a deal for Huston Street. San Diego has already publicly come out and said that they will listen to offers for him, and – assuming he’s healthy – he’s one of the nastiest closers in the business. He’s signed through 2014 at $7 million per with a $7 million team option for 2015. That’s pretty affordable for an elite closer for the next two seasons and when Motte is ready to pitch again in 2015, the Cards can choose to go with him or pick up Street’s option.
It’s highly doubtful Mo will go out and make a move right away, so you may see Mujica or even Scrabble get some save opportunities in the near future, but no one on the current roster projects as a long term 9th inning option. Here’s hoping we can fleece the Padres and bring in some legitimate bullpen help.