Time to Start Looking At Left-Handed Bullpen Options

I am well aware that the role of 2nd lefty — specifically Tyler Webb — is not the biggest issue facing the Cardinals. However, it is an area that is prime for an upgrade. As we move towards the meaty part of June, it’s time to start thinking about trade targets. With the new, hard trade deadline on July 31st, we may see teams be more aggressive with early talks, knowing the the August-trade safety blanket no longer exists.

With that, I figured we might as well take a quick look at players that could be of interest to the Cardinals, both internally and externally.

Internal Options

First, we have Tyler Webb. He is not necessarily bad. He is not necessarily good. His 4.26 ERA is a pretty true representation of who he is; an average depth pitcher. His strikeout rate of 24.5% with the bases empty is solid, but his 10.2% walk-rate is still too high. Then with runners on, his K% plummets to 13.8% and his BB% soars to 24.1%.

Even though he hasn’t allowed many hits, the walks have been back breaking.

Simply, the Cardinals can and need to do better if they are serious about contending.

A quick look at Memphis gives us a handful of internal options to consider.

First, I’ll mention Genesis Cabrera, who had a pair of not-great starts with the big club. Supposedly there was some level of pitch tipping, but regardless his future is best served by continuing his development as a starting pitcher in Memphis.

Next is Austin Gomber. He doesn’t really profile that well as a reliever, he may be needed in the rotation, and he is currently dealing with a bicep issue. He will be a factor at some point, but I won’t dwell on him today.

The following 3 pitchers face the added challenge of not being on the 40-man roster, meaning their performance has to not just be good enough to earn a spot, but also good enough to get someone else released.

So next up is Tommy Layne, a veteran that I championed for during a great season in the Cardinals’ system last year. This year he has been peppered for 8 HR’s and carries a 6.83 ERA and 6.82 FIP. Unfortunately, the HR bug isn’t a case of a few really bad games early on and smooth sailing since. He really just hasn’t been very good overall.

Then there is Hunter Cervenka, brought on via a minor league deal this offseason. He has a solid 2.21 ERA for Memphis with a 3.99 FIP and 25.9% K%. However, he has a frightening 17.7% BB%. As a journeyman minor leaguer, he is most likely just another Webb and not a worthy option.

Finally, there is Chasen Shreve. You remember him, right? His overall numbers aren’t great — 4.60 ERA, 4.94 FIP, 13.8% BB% — but he has been trending well. Since May 9th (12 games) he has 11 scoreless appearances and a 29.8% K%. His one bad outing was a 3 walk, 4 ER performance, which is bad. But otherwise, he looks like typical Shreve with a high K% and too-high BB%.

I would be ok with the Cardinals giving Shreve one more look over the next month-or-so, giving them a chance to see if this trend is legit or if they need to make a trade.

Oh, and maybe Brett Cecil will be back at some point…

I would really just prefer that they go outside the organization for someone new and better, someone fresh.

External Options

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Tim Mayza (58) throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during ninth inning American league baseball action in Toronto on Tuesday, August 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Tim Mayza is a name that has come up in trade circles more than a few times. Playing for a bad Toronto team, he is one of few good LH relievers not on a contending team. He currently has a 3.48 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a 29.2% K%, and a 13.5% BB% that is out of line with his career 9.4% walk-rate.

The fact that he is on a bad team would make him seem like a trade candidate, but he is also 5 seasons from free agency (see: cheap/controlled) which means the Cardinals would have to give up a little extra. He recently came off the IL, so he is still worth monitoring, especially if the Cardinals were to target fellow Blue Jay, Marcus Stroman for the rotation.

Other than Mayza, the Cardinals really just need to zero in on the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants sit in last place of a division with powerhouse Los Angeles and 3 other solid teams. The Giants are also in desperate need of a tear down. They have 3 LH relievers that can be of interest.

I’ll start with the lower-end, take-a-flier guy. That’s former starter Derek Holland. He was a disaster in the starting rotation to start the season, but has been a little better in the bullpen. The key with Holland is that RH hitters have crushed him for a .635 SLG% this year. LH hitters, on the other hand, have a .175 SLG%. They have 7 hits, all singles, in 50 PA’s. In a specialist role against Yelich, Rizzo, Votto, etc., Holland could be valuable. His limitations probably make him a less-costly option.

Next in line is Tony Watson. Watson is in the midst of yet another strong season. His 2.45 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 21.3% K% are all good numbers. Where he really deviates from the crowd is with his 3.2% walk-rate. He has 3 walks all season. This year, he has actually been better vs. RHH’s, but over his career, his splits have been fairly even between the two, meaning he is not a specialist. Also of not with Watson is that there is an option for 2020 on his contract, meaning the team that trades for him will be able to keep him around next year. A good version of Andrew Miller and a rock-steady Tony Watson would be a really good tandem for the next year-and-a-half.

The rental, but biggest difference maker for 2019 would be Will Smith. Smith is the guy that you don’t realize is as good as he is because he’s in San Francisco. In 54 games last year he was a 2.0 fWAR reliever. He is already good for a 0.9 fWAR in 2019. The Cardinals entire starting rotation is at a 2.0 fWAR for the year. That’s how valuable of a reliever he is.

He currently has a 2.38 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 1.97 xFIP, 39% K%, and 4.9% BB%. LHH’s have a .200 OBP against him. RHH’s have a .194 OBP. Those numbers are incredible.

Yes, he is a rental. Yes, he is going to cost a decent prospect.

But he is beyond good, and rentals simply don’t cost a top prospect anymore.

The Cardinals need to do whatever it takes to acquire him now, to turn the bullpen into a clear advantage in June, and upgrade what is currently the most boring position on the team.

There’s not really anything more for me to say on the topic, those are the options.

The Cardinals need to stop settling for the in-house guy and make a major play outside the organization this year.

I would be happy with Mayza or Watson. But for real, bring me Will Smith!

Thanks for reading!

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