Cards' relief corps remains work in progress

Club adds vet Gregerson, but Matheny seeking proven closer

January 9th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- With about five weeks remaining until Spring Training, the bullpen remains the most unsettled part of the Cardinals' roster. The club did sign veteran Luke Gregerson to a two-year deal, but their back-end blueprint is still in flux.
The search for a closer continues, though with finalizing an agreement with the Rockies over the holidays, the Cards find themselves with fewer available options. On the flip side, the collection of young pitchers amassed by the Cardinals could assist in filling some of the remaining gaps.

Having already taken a look at the Cardinals' projected lineup and rotation. this week, here is a snapshot of the organization's current bullpen makeup:
Gregerson, RHP
Depth could work to the Cardinals' advantage, as they have a number of rising pitching prospects who could find a fit in the bullpen while they await future starting opportunities. Waiting in the wings, too, is , whose recovery from Tommy John surgery should be complete by May. With Reyes set to have a season innings limit, the Cardinals are likely to use him out of the 'pen before sliding him into the 2018 rotation. He has the sort of repertoire and profile that could make him an ideal late-inning fit.

How will the Cardinals close out games? That remains the big unknown. Gregerson spent one year as a closer with Houston, but he's coming off a subpar season in which his home run rate spiked. No one else on the current roster has extensive experience closing games in the Majors.
That leaves the Cardinals with a few potential paths. They could enter Spring Training with an open competition for the ninth and try to groom a closer from within. Or they could use these final few weeks of the Hot Stove season to acquire someone who has thrived in that role.
Manager Mike Matheny has argued for the acquisition of a proven ninth-inning guy, which would suggest that the Cardinals are still engaged in discussions to acquire someone for that role. If the Cards choose to pursue a free agent, Greg Holland or would seem the best fit. The club had also engaged in trade talks surrounding closer Alex Colome of the Rays.
Additionally, the Cardinals have discussed adding other less-heralded relievers to the mix simply to improve their bullpen depth. These may come even in the form of Minor League signings, though the Cards have had success with such signings in recent years. Remember, that's how they added Pat Neshek, who became an All-Star with St. Louis in 2014, and , a key piece to the 'pen one year later.