2016 Preview: Relief Pitchers

Rosenthal and Molina

A 2.82 earned run average, 62 saves, and 183 walks collectively gathered by the St. Louis Cardinals’ relief pitchers ranked the bullpen toward the top of many 2015 leaderboards. The addition of the man that has recorded the most saves in the Korean Baseball Organization and a few subtractions by free agency pretty well sum up the altercations that have been made to that very bullpen this offseason.

After recording his 45 save of the season in September, closer Trevor Rosenthal became the seventh player in MLB history to record 45 saves in consecutive seasons. The 25-year-old also became the franchise’s leader in single-season saves when he recorded his 48, passing Lee Smith’s 47 in 1991 and the 47 saves the club’s all-time saves leader, Jason Isringhausen, had in 2005. Rosenthal’s name will still have the closer title attached to it in the upcoming season, but the addition of Seung Hwan Oh may pull from the amount of save opportunities the 2015 All-Star is given.

A one-year deal and a team option that’s worth about $5,000,000 was all that was needed for the Cardinals to obtain Seung Hwan Oh, a prominent closer out of Korea. Oh, 33, recorded 357 saves in eleven seasons, the most ever recorded by one player in the KBO. In his most recent season with the Hanshin Tigers, Seung Hwan posted a 1.15 WHIP in around 70 innings. And while he can work as a closer and do so in a swell manner, he may also encumber manager Mike Matheny’s urge to call upon Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness as frequently as he did in 2015, therefore maximizing their potential.

The pair that features a hard-throwing lefty and sinker-balling righty combined to appear in 157 games in 2015 and really began to show wear by the final months of the seasons. Siegrist, the pitcher that sits atop of the appearance leaderboard with 81 of them, posted a 1.53 ERA in 47 2/3 innings in the months of April, May, June and July. In the regular season’s final months, Kevin managed a 3.70 earned run average in 27 innings, a significant decline in quality. Such a statistical trend also applied to Maness, the owner of a 1.33 WHIP in the season’s first four months and a 1.59 in the months remaining. Everyone benefits from a breather here and there, and Siegrist and Maness do not take exception. Oh gives Matheny another reliable arm to turn to and allow him to rest Siegrist and Maness more leniently.

In early December, the Cardinals and Jonathan Broxton agreed on a two-year, $7.5 million deal that features a full no-trade clause. Broxton was acquired via trade in July from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for young outfielder Malik Collymore. The brusque righthander posted a 4.62 earned run average between Milwaukee and St. Louis last season and appeared in 26 games for the Cardinals.

Aside from Rosenthal, Oh, Siegrist, Maness, and Broxton, the Cardinals still have some pieces to shape their bullpen with. Jordan Walden, the foreshadowed piece in the Heyward-Miller trade that went down in November of 2014, missed all but 10 1/3 innings of the previous season due to inflammation of his right bicep. Mitch Harris put in a solid case of work, posting a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings. Sam Tuivailala fared well this last season, securing seventeen saves in as many chances while serving as the closer for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds and posting a 3.07 ERA while with the parent team. Matt Bowman, a pick of the Cardinals in December’s Rule 5 draft, received an invite to Spring Training, Jayson Aquino, a lefty that was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December, Dean Kiekhefer, an addition to the team’s 40-man roster in late November to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, and Miguel Socolovich are roster invitees to Spring Training. Also on the 40-man roster and planning to attend Spring Training are Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney, a trio of lefties that could make starts for the Cardinals during the upcoming season if necessary. Either one of them may land a role in the Cardinals’ bullpen on Opening Day, serving as an emergency starter or a long relief man.

Thanks for reading.

Twitter: @Curtis_Josey

PC: Zimbio

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