News: Cardinals sign RHP Bud Norris

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with free agent RHP Bud Norris on a one-year, $3 million deal plus incentives to join their bullpen (credit to original reporting from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal). RHP Rowan Wick has been designed for assignment to make room on the 40 man roster.

The story. The Cardinals have been on the hunt for additional bullpen help, the addition of Norris gives them another veteran arm.

The numbers. Bud Norris, 32, posted a 4.21 ERA over 62 innings last season in 3 starts and 57 relief appearances for the Los Angeles Angels. He was also 19-for-23 in save opportunities for the Angels last season.

Norris pitched well early in 2017, carrying a 2.23 ERA into the All Star Break, but struggled in the second half with knee inflammation which saw his ERA balloon. He had a 7.01 ERA in the second half. He did finish out the season strong, making two spot starts for the Angels and throwing a combined 6.1 innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits.

Rowan Wick, 25, was drafted in the 9th round of the 2012 draft by the Cardinals as a catcher. After three rough seasons, he tried be the next Jason Motte and make the transition to pitcher. Early returns were good, but he struggled in Memphis last year. Overall he posted a 3.19 ERA in 42.1 relief innings between Memphis, Springfield, and the Gulf Coast League.

The impact. 5/10. The impact is more because it solidifies the eight men who should be headed to New York for the season opener against the Mets than the impact that I feel Norris can bring to the table.

Norris, he of #BudChuck fame, originally made the Angels club last season as a long reliever before injuries pushed him into the closer’s role. He posted a 3.60 ERA over 35 innings and 38 appearances as the Angels’ closer, going 18-for-19 in saves over that stretch before the team’s original closer returned to the job.

Even that was front heavy. In his first two and a half months as the Angels’ closer he had a 1.57 ERA, but the final three months the knee injury came into play and he had a 12.79 ERA, including a pair of games where he allowed walk off grand slams, taking the hit for all four earned runs both times.

As far as the guys going north, I feel like you had Matthew Bowman, John Brebbia, Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, Dominic Leone, Tyler Lyons, and Sam Tuivailala locked in to the seven main spots with an eighth spot still in play. The addition of Norris likely puts him in that spot with John Gant and Ryan Sherriff as the next man up until Alex Reyes is ready to arrive where needed.

Wick might still have a future, as he won’t be done. With such a late transition to pitcher, he is behind the eight ball, so to speak, but he has done well in his second time around at each level. He struggled in Double-A in 2016, but was strong there in 2017. He struggled in Triple-A in 2017, and perhaps this is the year he puts it together there.

News: Cardinals place four on MLB Pipeline’s preseason Top-100 Prospects

What happened. MLB Pipeline revealed their preseason top-100 on Saturday night and the Cardinals once again placed four players on the list. These are the same four players from Baseball America’s list released earlier this week. RHP Alex Reyes leads the way again at #18 with RHP Jack Flaherty at #38, C Carson Kelly at #46, and OF Tyler O’Neill at #94.

The numbers. This is Alex Reyes’ second time on the list, debuting on MLB Pipeline’s list at #6 prior to the 2017 season. Having spent the season on the sidelines has dropped him twelve spots to #18.

Jack Flaherty, 22, returns to the list for the second time after not having been ranked last season. He was #80 on the 2016 preseason edition, but after stumbling a bit with a 3.56 ERA over 23 starts for High A Palm Beach, he dropped off. But a strong season between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis put him back on the list at a very solid #38.

Carson Kelly, 23, is on the list for the second time as well, debuting last year at #39. He falls seven spots despite improving in every major offensive category in 2017 compared to his 2016 season. He did struggle upon promotion to the Cardinals, but what backup to Yadier Molina hasn’t?

And finally, Tyler O’Neill, 22, is yet another two-time player on the list. Prior to the 2017 season he was ranked #36 but has fallen to #94 after running into some troubles in Triple-A last year.

The impact. 0/10. Yet again a 0/10. This is the second straight season the Cardinals have had four prospects on MLB’s top 100 prospects list thanks to the acquisition of Tyler O’Neill. O’Niell replaced RHP Luke Weaver who was #68 last year and graduated from the list after posting a 3.88 ERA over 60 innings, including 10 starts, for the big league Cardinals last season.

News: Four Cardinals on Baseball America’s Preseason Top-100 Prospects

What happened. Baseball America released their annual preseason rankings of the top-100 prospects in baseball. RHP Alex Reyes once again leads the way, this time at #17. Others on the list are RHP Jack Flaherty at #53, C Carson Kelly at #55, and OF Tyler O’Neill at #86.

The numbers. Alex Reyes, 23, is on Baseball America’s preseason top-100 list for the fourth straight season after peaking at #4 last season. He missed the entire 2017 season rehabbing from a February Tommy John surgery. In limited action in St. Louis in 2016, Reyes had a 1.57 ERA over 46 innings as both a starter and reliever. He is not expected to return to the mound until May 2018.

Jack Flaherty, 22, made his big league debut in 2017 after posting a 2.18 ERA in 25 starts between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. However he struggled upon arrival in St. Louis, posting a 6.33 ERA over 5 starts and a relief appearance. He will compete with Luke Weaver for the Cardinals’ fifth starter spot and potentially a spot in the bullpen. This is his first appearance on Baseball America’s preseason prospect rankings. He was #57 on their mid-season update.

Carson Kelly, 23, makes his second appearance on Baseball America’s preseason top-100 list, moving up from #65 last season as he debuted as a consensus top-100 prospect. Kelly hit .283/.375/.459 with 10 home runs in 68 games for Memphis last season before receiving a midseason call up to the big leagues where he served as Yadier Molina‘s backup. He hit .174/.240/.217 over 34 games in the big leagues.

Tyler O’Neill, 22, was able to hold onto a spot in the top-100, sliding from #38 to #86 this season after early season struggles upon the promotion to AAA. He was acquired by the Cardinals over the summer for Marco Gonzales. Over 130 games between Triple-As Tacoma and Memphis, O’Neill hit .246/.321/.499 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI.

The impact. 0/10. No real impact here, just some validation for the organization. Three of these four players should graduate off the list this season with Reyes expected to arrive in St. Louis in May, Kelly expected to spend the season as Molina’s backup, and Flaherty likely to play a Luke Weaver (#50 on last year’s preseason list) role this year.

Falling off the list is shortstop prospect Delvin Perez, who had been a consensus top-100 prospect before the 2017 season and #86 on Baseball America’s list. Most of that carried on him projecting as a toolsy shortstop who had a great age 17 season in his debut in rookie league. However, he struggled in his age 18 season and just turned 19 a couple months ago. It’s less of a reflection on Perez and more on the difficulty in projecting a teenage player’s development. Kyle Reis at Birds on the Black wrote a nice piece on this a couple weeks ago.

Further, I can’t help but chuckle a bit at the positioning of Alex Reyes. Reyes was #4 last year before going to the disabled list with Tommy John. He was #12 at the midseason update in July and has fallen even further despite four guys ahead of him in the midseason rankings either graduated or dropped below him. It’s like, what happened in those six months that convinced them that Reyes at #12 was too high and that he needed to drop five more spots?

News: Cardinals send Grichuk to Blue Jays for pair of pitchers

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals traded OF Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for RHP Dominic Leone and RHP Conner Greene.

The story. The aim here was to open up the fourth outfielder spot off the bench while adding an arm to a questionable St. Louis bullpen.

The numbers.  Randal Grichuk, 26, hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs in 122 games with the Cardinals last year. It was his second straight 20+ home run season, making him one of 67 players in Major League Baseball with back-to-back 20 home run seasons. His 11.3% extra base hit rate was 21st of the 216 players who had at least 400 plate appearances last season. He was arbitration eligible for the first time this season, settling on a $2.6 million salary.

Dominic Leone, 26, posted a 2.56 ERA over 65 appearances and 70.1 innings for the Blue Jays last season. Among Blue Jays relievers with more than 20 innings pitched, Leone’s 6.5 H/9 and 10.4 K/9 ranked third. Just 22% of inherited base runners scored on Leone last season, fourth best in the American League among relievers who inherited at least 50. He was arbitration eligible for the first time this season, settling on a $1.085 million salary. He is a “Super Two” so he has three years of team control remaining.

Connor Greene, 22, posted a 5.29 ERA over 25 starts and 132.2 innings for Double-A New Hampshire. In 42 starts in Double-A, Greene has a 4.89 ERA over 226.1 innings. Scouting reports indicate that he has a high-90s fastball though seemingly like all pitchers with a great fastball, he struggles with control, walking 5.6 per nine innings last season. But the strikeouts have not really come for Greene’s fastball, posting just a 6.8 K/9 in his minor league career. He was rated the #100 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the 2016 season.

The impact. 8/10. This is one of those baseball trades that makes a great deal of sense to both sides immediately, but not without it’s own set of question marks. The Blue Jays had a number of solid relievers last season and were in desperate need for offensive pieces to help that lineup that they intend to contend with in 2018. Enter the Cardinals who had an extra starting outfielder and needed bullpen help.

In Grichuk the Blue Jays will add one of the league’s best extra base hitters. In each of the past two seasons Grichuk reached 20 home runs without being a qualified hitter. Playing every day in the AL East where he can play 81 games in the Rogers Centre and then a handful of others in Camden Yards, I’ve said before that I think Grichuk is a 40 HR player if he plays everyday in the AL East. It seems like he could get that opportunity now. He needs to take that next step in his development, but its not beyond the realm of possibility.

For the Cardinals, this trade reveals that their approach to the 2018 bullpen seems to be throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. Dominic Leone is coming off a great season, but can the Blue Jays’ seventh inning man turn into a late inning guy? And for Greene, a move to the bullpen could be just what the doctor ordered to resurrect his career, but even still at 22 time is on his side.

The question for the Cardinals following this trade is where they expect to see Leone slotting in at this point. Is he the closer? Is he the eighth inning guy? Do they like Luke Gregerson over Leone?

Leone was dominant last season and had a good rookie campaign in 2014 with Seattle, but in between he struggled mightily with his command, posting a 7+ ERA in 2015 and 2016 combined. At 26 and entering his fifth season since debuting in the big leagues he’s also on his fourth big league club. That’s more typical of the resume of a reliever that’s about to wash out rather than one who is poised to be a late inning option for a team intending to contend for a division.

News: Cardinals agree to terms with Ozuna, Wacha, and Lyons

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals agreed to terms with their remaining salary arbitration eligible players. OF Marcell Ozuna will get $9 million per Jon Heyman, RHP Michael Wacha will get $5.3 million per Derrick Goold, and LHP Tyler Lyons will get $1.2 million on their one year deals to avoid arbitration.

The story. This afternoon was the deadline for teams and players to exchange their salary information. For the Cardinals, they told players last winter that their intent was to operate under a “file-and-trial” system, meaning once salary numbers were exchanged, they would be done negotiating a settlement offer and would see them in the arbitration hearing. The Cardinals took Wacha to hearing last year.

The numbers. Marcell Ozuna, 27, had a breakout year for the Marlins last year hitting .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI in his fourth full season in the big leagues. His 142 wRC+ was 13th among qualified hitters in the Majors last season. He also took home the Gold Glove Award for his work in left field.  He was acquired from the Marlins for four prospects in December.

Michael Wacha, 26, was the unlucky soul that got to be made an example of when the club took him to arbitration and won last February. He answered with a 4.13 ERA over 165.2 innings and 30 starts. He saw a fair amount of improvement over 2016 and posted a better fielding independent season than his All Star campaign in 2015. The biggest thing may have been taking the ball 30 times last year and posting his first career complete game shutout.

Tyler Lyons, 29, pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for St. Louis last season and responded with a 2.83 ERA over 54 innings of work, including a 1.57 ERA over 28.2 innings after July 7th.  By the end of the season he had worked his way in as one of the bullpen’s most important relievers.

The impact. 5/10. Same as yesterday. Nothing here was utterly ground shaking. All the players involved were already under contract for 2018, the only part left to determine was how much the players would be paid. We’re still waiting on that information, but it has been reported that all three have signed one year deals.

After going through arbitration last season, I was a little surprised that Wacha and his representation cut it so close to experiencing it again. Unless, perhaps he decided that it wasn’t too bad and why not give it another shot. But they did not, and as a result Wacha will earn $5.3 million in 2018 after being projected to make $5.9 million.

For Ozuna, it was unlikely that the Cardinals wanted to take their prized offseason acquisition to arbitration as their first official act. It was expected that his agent, Scott Boras, might try to use that bit of leverage to their advantage, but Ozuna settled with the Cardinals for $9 million in salary after being projected to earn $10.9 million through arbitration and Khris Davis settling for $10.5 million yesterday while Ozuna is expected to be the more valuable player.

For Lyons, I wondered if the Cardinals with his performances in relief over his career and the escalating salaries of relief pitching if they might try to buy out some of his arbitration years this winter. That will not be the case with him agreeing to a $1.2 million salary in his first trip through arbitration after being projected to earn $1.3 million.

News: Cardinals agree to terms with Randal Grichuk

What happened. With the arbitration numbers being officially exchanged tomorrow, the St. Louis Cardinals and OF Randal Grichuk agreed to terms on a 1 year, $2.6 million deal.

The story. Tomorrow is the day where teams and players who are in their salary arbitration years are to exchange their salary numbers. In years past, this would create a framework conducive to coming to an agreement, but last season the Cardinals instituted a “file and trial” system where if they get to the exchange of salary numbers, they’ll carry on to the arbitration hearing. They took RHP Michael Wacha to arbitration last year, taking a case to arbitration for the first time since 1999, and won.

Grichuk had been projected to earn $2.8 million in arbitration based on Matt Shwartz’s projections at MLB Trade Rumors. LHP Tyler Lyons and RHP Michael Wacha are the Cardinals two other arbitration cases that remain unresolved as of yet as well as newly acquired OF Marcell Ozuna.

The numbers. Randal Grichuk, 26, was a first round pick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2009 draft. He was acquired by St. Louis after the 2013 season as part of the trade that sent David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels.

Last season Grichuk hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs in 122 games with the Cardinals. It was his second straight 20+ home run season, making him one of 67 players in Major League Baseball with back-to-back 20 home run seasons. His 11.3% extra base hit rate was 21st of the 216 players who had at least 400 plate appearances last season.

The impact. 5/10. There is no surprise with this deal as Grichuk has long been penciled in as the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder going into next season. It’s a role he should excel in as well. He can provide some punch off the bench while being able to give you good defense at all three outfield positions.

With the offseason going as slowly as it has, it’s very possible that Grichuk may yet find his way out of St. Louis, but for now he is still here and it is a good thing. I’m on record saying that trading Grichuk this winter would be a mistake for the Cardinals because I believe he will eventually put the tools together. In many ways he is already the kind of player you’d love to just plug in 8th in your lineup and let him play everyday. He’d put up some gaudy power numbers for sure.

It seems like Grichuk has been around forever because he first debuted for the Cardinals in 2014 and now has spent most of the last four seasons in St. Louis, but Grichuk was still the youngest position player on the team’s 2017 Opening Day roster. And only Carlos Martinez was younger on the complete 25 man last April.

He’s young enough that he still has time on his side and has the power tool in spades. He needs to figure out how to be more selective at the plate, though he did show me that he took strikes in that category as he bit far less on the down and away pitch that had plagued him thus far.

I think when we discuss Grichuk we often talk about how far he has to go, but really it’s not that far. Learning to be a little more selective at the plate and how he approaches that would make him a dramatically better player. And some of that should come naturally with experience.

News: Cardinals lose Wilson, add two in Rule 5 Draft

What happened. No St. Louis Cardinals players were chosen in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft this year. 2B Jacob Wilson was selected by the Washington Nationals in the Triple-A phase while the Cardinals chose OF Angel Moreno from the Tampa Bay Rays and OF Jean Selmo from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The story. The Rule 5 Draft is the final official event of the Winter Meetings every year.  In general, players who were signed out of high school or international free agency in 2013 or earlier and out of college in 2014 or earlier are Rule 5 Draft eligible. This is to help give young players who potentially stagnate in a team’s system or find themselves blocked to be given another opportunity earlier in their careers.

The numbers. Jacob Wilson, 27, was a 10th round pick of the Cardinals in the 2012 draft. After breaking through to Triple-A last season, Wilson found himself spending the entire 2017 season in Double-A Springfield where he hit .248/.337/.417 with 17 home runs in 129 games. Wilson was left exposed last winter and went unclaimed. That was not the case this year as he was chosen by the Washington Nationals.

Angel Moreno, 21, was an international signing by the Tampa Bay Rays out of the Dominican Republic. He has played professional baseball for five seasons in the Rays organization, moving to High-A Charlotte in 2017 where he hit .229/.290/.288 with no home runs over 71 games. His scouting report indicates a plus defensive outfielder with an average arm and good bat speed at the plate.

Jean Selmo, 17, was an international signing by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the Dominican Republic. He debuted in the Dominican Summer League last season, hitting .232/.332/.372 with 3 home runs for the Diamondbacks. I was not able to find much by way of scouting report on him, but found a World Showcase report on him from a couple years ago that described him as having a strong physical build for his age with good bat speed who projects for big power.

The impact. 0/10. There’s not really any impact for the team right now. The minor league portions of the Rule 5 Draft, where all three players were claimed, have different rules than the Major League portion which require the player to stay on the big league roster for the entire season.

The additions of two more outfielders (after acquiring one in the Aledmys Diaz trade) likely gives us a hint that more outfielders are on their way out of the organization. These guys are likely intended primarily to back fill the system as the big league club trades away some of their upper level talent. But, especially in Selmo’s case, these guys are still young enough with enough potential that they’ve still got an opportunity to develop into productive players.

News: Cardinals trade Stephen Piscotty to Athletics

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to send OF Stephen Piscotty to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for prospects utilityman Yairo Munoz and 2B Max Schrock.

The story. There were some hiccups to this deal as it was reported late last night that the deal was done and then nearly an hour later that there had been a snag and was still being worked out. Following the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, which is expected to become official today, the club needed to make room and that meant moving Piscotty.

The numbers. Piscotty, 26, hit .234/.342/.367 with 9 home runs over 107 games with the Cardinals this season in the worst season of his career. Over two and a half seasons in the big leagues with the Cardinals, he hit .268/.346/.438 with 38 home runs and 66 doubles.

Munoz, 23, was an international free agent when he signed with the Athletics in 2012. This past season he hit .300/.330/.464 with 13 home runs between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville. He is viewed as a plus defensive player who is capable of playing every position on the field and split his time in 2017 between shortstop, third base, and ceer field. He was Oakland’s #13 prospect according to MLB.com.

Schrock, 23, was a 13th round pick of the Washington Nationals in the 2015 MLB Draft. They acquired him in August 2016 in exchange for former Cardinal LHP Marc Rzepczynski. Schrock hit .321/.379/.422 with 7 home runs in 106 games for Double-A Midland this season while playing second base. He was Oakland’s #17 prospect according to MLB.com.

The impact. 6/10. Piscotty still has a great deal left in the tank, in my opinion. He had moments where he showed the flashes of what gave us such home when he hit .273 and 22 home runs in 2016, but he had others where he just flat out struggled.

No player likes to make excuses, but it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do for a living or how much you make, it’s hard to focus when there’s things going on at home. Even more difficult when you’re half a country away. And this year has not been easy on Stephen or the Piscotty family personally or professionally.

Hopefully returning the Bay Area can help him get his feet back under him and back to the player the Cardinals expected they were getting when they signed him to a 6 year, $33 million extension before the 2017 season began.

In return the Cardinals picked up two minor league players who look to have had success at every level through the minors. Very reminiscent to me of a guy like Greg Garcia, who went mostly unheralded but worked his way up and has been a productive utility guy off the bench for the Cardinals.

As I read and did research on these guys, the thing that stuck out to me about each was that Munoz can pay every position on the field (he’s in the right place to get to work with Jose Oquendo now too) and that Schrock and flat out hit.

It was a bit of a non-baseball decision to move Piscotty to Oakland, but I do believe that the Cardinals got a fair return for him considering last season. This does not look to be a straight contract dump.

News: Cardinals to acquire Marcell Ozuna

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to acquire outfield Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins in exchange for RHP Sandy Alcantara, OF Magneuris Sierra, RHP Zac Gallen, and LHP Daniel Castano. The deal is pending physicals.

The story. The Cardinals have been on the market for a middle of the order hitter to add to their lineup and after trying to land Giancarlo Stanton, it looks like they’ve found their man in his former teammate Marcell Ozuna.

The numbers. Ozuna, 27, hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and a 142 wRC+ last season for the Miami Marlins.  He led the Marlins in batting average and on base percentage last season as well as being second in home runs and slugging percentage. Over four full time seasons in the Majors, Ozuna has hit .278/.333/.465 with 93 home runs in 583 games.

He has two arbitration years remaining and is projected to earn $10.9 million this season.

Alcantara, 21, posted a 4.31 ERA over 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield this season which earned him a September call up to the big league club. There he posted a 4.32 ERA over 8 relief appearances. He had a 4.20 ERA in 5 starts in the Arizona Fall League. He is the Cardinals’ #9 prospect according to MLB.com.

Sierra, also 21, hit .317/.359/.317 in 22 games in the big leagues this season as injury needs saw him make the job from High A ball to the Majors. Overall in the minors, Sierra hit .270/.318/.363 with 1 home run between Peoria and Springfield He is the Cardinals’ #6 prospect according to MLB.com.

Gallen, 22, is a former 3rd round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft. He posted a 2.93 ERA over 26 starts between High A Palm Beach, Double-A Springfield, and Triple-A  Memphis.

Castano, 23, is a former 19th round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft as well. He most recently posted a 2.57 ERA over 14 starts for Low-A State College.

The impact. 8/10. Acquiring Ozuna is not the model shattering move that acquiring Giancarlo Stanton would have been, but it’s a quality addition for the club that needed a potential difference maker in the lineup.

I’ve been in on the Cardinals acquiring Ozuna since last winter when I named him one of my five players the Cardinals should be interested in. He responded with a career year that put himself on the map as a potential impact bat. After the Cardinals came up empty on Stanton, he was my preferred outfielder if the Cardinals went back to Miami looking for help.

There is no magic number I can give you that will convince you of what I believe, that Ozuna is a better acquisition than Christian Yelich, and I understand that he isn’t the surefire difference maker in the same way that Stanton was going to be, but he can definitely help. His wRC+ last season ranked 13th in Major League Baseball among qualified hitters last season, just five spots behind his new outfield partner Tommy Pham.

It’s unclear exactly how the Cardinals will align their outfield, but in comparison to the other two positions last year, the Cardinals struggled in right field with a 101 wRC+. Of the three projected starting outfielders for the Cardinals, Dexter Fowler‘s 121 wRC+ last season is the lowest.

As far as the cost, the Cardinals just acquired the man who was the 13th best offensive player in baseball last season who is 27 years old and just won a gold glove award without surrendering a top-100 prospect. Beyond that, without surrendering one of their own top-5 prospects, leaving plenty of muscle for an additional move for another bat or a closer.

Alcantara is probably the one that hurts the most, but in my opinion, he is the kind of pitcher that prospect evaluators love because their pitches have so much potential but they never live up to that potential because players don’t generally improve their control as they rise up through the minors into the Majors. I have similar problems with Alex Reyes. The pure stuff is sexy, but once MLB hitters figure out what you can and can’t throw for strikes, the clock strikes midnight.

If we’re honest, Sierra is probably not an MLB starter, though his speed and defensive abilities will probably keep him around. Gallen put up solid numbers and will be interesting to watch. If I was a betting man, I’d suggest that he is most likely to have the best MLB career out of all of them. Castano is so low in the minors that anything could happen.

This is likely not the final move for the Cardinals this week. The club will still need to find a taker for Stephen Piscotty to help clear up the outfield situation and they’re deep into discussions with Tampa for at least a closer.

If the changes that Ozuna made at the plate for the 2017 season are for real, the Cardinals got a steal. If not, I think his floor is still high enough to be a productive member of the lineup. And if you don’t get what you expect, you’re not attached to him for the next five years.

News: Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson to two year deal

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to terms with right handed pitcher Luke Gregerson on a 2 year, $11 million deal that has a vesting third year option. The deal is pending a physical, which is expected to be performed on Tuesday.

The story. The Cardinals have been looking to add a couple of relievers to their bullpen and complete their first addition of the winter with the signing of Gregerson on the eve of the winter meetings.

The numbers. Gregerson, 33, has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over his career with a 3.02 ERA in nine Major League seasons. Unfortunately, his 2017 season represented his career worst season. The former Cardinals’ draft pick posted a 4.57 ERA last year over 61 innings for the Houston Astros. It wasn’t just a bad start that doomed him, he had a 5.33 ERA in the second half of the season. To top it off, Gregerson threw just 3.2 innings during the 2017 postseason while the Astros bullpen struggled. All of those innings were mop up work.

The impact. 6/10. The addition of Gregerson is intended to be one of the Cardinals’ late inning arms. Three years ago, I’d have been all over this signing. Today, I am unimpressed by it.

On paper, Gregerson can check a lot of boxes. He’s been a very good reliever in the past. He’s a veteran voice out there, which is something the Cardinals have liked to have. And he has closing experience, notching 46 saves in about a year and a half as the Astros closer a couple years ago.

The fear for me with this signing is that Gregerson will struggle as he did last year. I understand that relief work is a little more up and down, but Gregerson had been consistently dominant over his previous eight seasons. Maybe it’s just bad memories of Jonathan Broxton finding his way into games he had no business being in purely because he was the veteran reliever in the bullpen and I’m projecting. Maybe I’m not.

It is just the first signing as the club hopes to add another arm to the bullpen, most likely the established closer they seek. They’ve talked with Tampa about Alex Colome and they’d been linked with interest in Greg Holland before the offseason began. Perhaps we’ll see some action and the club’s offseason start moving this week as Giancarlo Stanton has finally been traded and teams start working on their next options.