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Cardinals pivot in hunt for potential closer

Bullpen makeover affected by Davis, Duke signing elsewhere
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals kept quiet over the recent holidays, members of the organization's front office returned for their first official workday of 2018 needing to recalibrate their search for a closer.

Last Friday, free agent Wade Davis joined the Rockies under a three-year, $52 million contract that includes a fourth year vesting option. Not only did the signing reinforce the cost associated with acquiring a proven closer on the free-agent market, but it also knocked another potential fit for the Cardinals' vacancy off their list.

ST. LOUIS -- Though the Cardinals kept quiet over the recent holidays, members of the organization's front office returned for their first official workday of 2018 needing to recalibrate their search for a closer.

Last Friday, free agent Wade Davis joined the Rockies under a three-year, $52 million contract that includes a fourth year vesting option. Not only did the signing reinforce the cost associated with acquiring a proven closer on the free-agent market, but it also knocked another potential fit for the Cardinals' vacancy off their list.

In Colorado, Davis will take over closing duties from Greg Holland, another free agent whom the Cardinals may now pursue. St. Louis has also explored the cost of acquiring Alex Colome from Tampa Bay and has remained open to pivoting its search toward a setup man who could grow into a closer. Someone like Addison Reed could be a fit in this scenario.

With six weeks remaining until the start of Spring Training, enhancing the bullpen remains the Cardinals' primary need.

Duke lands in Minnesota

Despite expressing interest in returning to the Cardinals, lefty reliever Zach Duke is headed back to the American League after signing a one-year deal with the Twins last week. He becomes the second of the Cardinals' four free-agent relievers to land elsewhere, as Juan Nicasio signed earlier in December with the Mariners.

Duke, who came to the Cardinals through a 2016 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal, posted a 2.81 ERA over 55 appearances with the club. He missed the first four months of the '17 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery before returning to pitch in 27 games.

Coaching carousel

President of baseball operations John Mozeliak confirmed the Cardinals are close to finalizing their Minor League coaching staffs for 2018. It is already known, however, that the organization will be replacing Jason Simontacchi, who served as the pitching coach in Double-A Springfield each of the past three seasons. He has been a coach within the organization for five years.

Simontacchi announced on his Facebook page that he will become the Royals' new assistant Minor League pitching coordinator.

Simontacchi, who pitched for the Cardinals from 2002-04, was the 2017 recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Texas League Coach of the Year Award. Springfield's staff ERA of 3.62 ranked second-best in the Texas League last season.

Minor matters

The Cardinals added to their catching depth recently by signing Steven Baron and Francisco Pena to Minor League contracts. Pena, 28, made his Major League debut in 2014 and has appeared in 28 big league games over the last four seasons. In 51 games with Baltimore's Triple-A affiliate last season, Pena hit .278/.309/.450 in 188 plate appearances.

A former first-round Draft pick, Baron hasn't been in the Majors since playing in four games with the Mariners in 2015. He spent most of the '17 season in Triple-A, where Baron slashed .256/.339/.329 in 54 games.

The Cardinals were looking to add depth on the catching side after Alberto Rosario elected to become a Minor League free agent. Carson Kelly, who opened last season as Triple-A Memphis' starting catcher, is expected to serve as Yadier Molina's backup in St. Louis.

Karaoke for a cause

Adam Wainwright will host his second annual Sing Off and Karaoke Challenge at Dave & Buster's St. Louis on Jan. 12. The event begins at 7 p.m. CT and tickets can be purchased for as low as $25. Money raised from the evening will be donated to Cardinals Care, Operation Food Search and Crisis Aid through Wainwright's Big League Impact St. Louis initiative.

Those in attendance will have an opportunity to see Wainwright take the stage and sing, as well as watch other local singers compete in a karaoke contest.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit bigleagueimpact.org. Last year's event raised nearly $50,000 for charity.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

St. Louis Cardinals, Steven Baron, Francisco Pena