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MLB: The Cardinals’ Next Step – A Left Handed Reliever

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If you haven’t heard by now, the Cardinals pulled off a very favorable trade for Paul Goldschmidt. It’s arguable that they could still use another big bat, but first, they desperately need help in the bullpen.

More specifically, they need left-handed help in the pen. A legitimate closer would be nice too, but first things first. Between the trade and free agent markets there are a few intriguing options Mozeliak could pursue to solve this problem.

Andrew Miller

The Redbirds have already been involved in rumors revolving around Andrew Miller. The big lefty is currently a free agent at age 33. He had a bit of a rough go in 2018, but that aside, he’s been one of the most effective left handed relievers in baseball since 2014.

Miller
Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports

This past season Miller dealt with some injuries and his performance suffered. In just 34 innings he posted an ERA of 4.24 and a record of 2-4. His biggest issue was issuing walks. These problems were likely linked to his injury keeping him off the field though, which never allowed him to get in a groove. Nonetheless, in nearly two times the number of innings pitched in 2017 Miller walked only 21 batters, to the 16 that he walked in ’18.

The 2018 season wasn’t as bad for Miller as you might be led to believe, though. He still struck out 45 batters and had a respectable FIP of 3.51. His numbers against left handed hitters were still very solid, too. In 49 plate appearances against him, lefties hit just .227 with a .556 OPS and a tOPS+ of 55. He also struck out 12 of those hitters while walking just four.

Let’s not forget what Miller did in the season previous to this past one, either. In 2017 he threw 62.2 innings, struck out 95 and posted a 1.44 ERA, 1.99 FIP and 0.839 WHIP. He made his second All-Star appearance as well and posted a 1.80 ERA in the postseason. This was all one year removed from his all-time good 2016 season, where he single handedly changed the landscape of bullpen usage in the playoffs forever.

Zach Britton

Another left-handed free agent the Cardinals have been rumored to be in talks with is Zach Britton. Britton spent parts of last season with the Orioles and the Yankees.

Britton
Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The first half of 2018 wasn’t quite as good as the second for Britton. When in Baltimore he threw 15.2 innings over 16 games, posted a 3.45 ERA and a 4.44 FIP. After being traded to New York he threw 25 innings over 25 games and had a 2.88 ERA and a 4.08 FIP.

Like Miller, Britton’s biggest troubles in 2018 were with walks. He ended the season with a total of 21 base on balls surrendered in just 40.2 innings. His strikeouts were also down at 34.

However, also like Miller, Britton has a very good upside. Back in 2016 he had one of the best years ever for a closer. He posted a 0.54 ERA and 1.94 FIP over 67 innings while striking out 74 and collecting a league best 47 saves. When it was all said and done he finished fourth in the AL Cy Young race and eleventh in the MVP vote.

Britton will be 31 years old, meaning he will probably be looking at a multi-year deal wherever he signs. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for the Cardinals if he’s even half what he was in 2016, though Mozeliak might be weary of that type of contract after the disaster that has been Brett Cecil.

Roenis Elias

The Mariners are in full rebuild mode at the moment. That means they don’t have much use for a 30 year old left-handed reliever like Roenis Elias. The Cardinals clearly do though. Outside of the free agent market, Elias may be one of the Cards’ best options to solve their lefty problems in the pen, and he’s likely available.

In 2018 Elias posted a 2.65 ERA and a 3.08 FIP over 51 innings. His numbers against lefties were solid as well. Over 76 plate appearances he struck out 16, walked five, held them to an OPS of .678 and a sOPS+ of 85.

Despite his good numbers, maybe the most attractive thing to the Cardinals about Elias is his contract. He is under team control through 2022, is arbitration eligible for the first time next season and only made $582K last year.

Should the asking price for Miller and Britton be too high, Elias might be the best available solution for the Redbirds. After seeing the return the Mariners got for Jean Segura, it’s safe to say it wouldn’t take much to acquire him and he fits their needs.

 

Featured Image by Ted S. Warren of the Associated Press

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