The Cardinals’ starting rotation is doing quite well thus far, leading baseball with an aggregate 2.07 ERA. Their bullpen, on the other hand, brings up the rear at 5.67. They have lost Jason Motte for the season as the right-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery. Mitchell Boggs’ stint at closer was short-lived as his 12.66 ERA in 10.2 innings earned him a demotion to Triple-A Memphis. Marc Rzepczynski, too, was demoted to Memphis with a 7.88 ERA. It’s ugly.
What are the Cardinals to do about their bullpen? According to Joe Strauss, John Mozeliak’s hope is that 2005 Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter will be able to rejoin the team in the summer and serve the team as a reliever as summer approaches.
This is no stunt or pat on the head to a veteran unwilling to concede the obvious. Both parties believe Carpenter can potentially address the gash to the bullpen’s starboard side.
“I’m candidly optimistic and excited about him contributing,” Mozeliak says.
Carpenter remains on the team’s 60-day disabled list, meaning he can not be activated sooner than the end of this month. Though no formal timetable is in place, Mozeliak thinks a projected return in late June or early July reasonable.
Though not the norm, it isn’t surprising to see an injured starter returning as a reliever. John Smoltz is an example that immediately comes to mind. Livan Hernandez pitched out of the bullpen last year with the Braves and Brewers after having made 474 consecutive starts between 1997-2011, though not with much success.
Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.
While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.
Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.
Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”
Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.
If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.