Cards add righty VerHagen on two-year deal

March 11th, 2022

JUPITER, Fla. -- Wasting no time in addressing their pressing pitching needs, the Cardinals agreed to terms on a two-year deal with right-hander Drew VerHagen, a six-year MLB veteran who has the flexibility to be either a starter or reliever.

VerHagen, 31, pitched for the Tigers from 2014-19 and compiled a 10-10 record with a 5.11 ERA in 127 Major League appearances. Most of those outings were as a setup man out of the bullpen. In 199 innings, he allowed 209 hits and 113 earned runs, while striking out 156 batters and walking 75. Over his six seasons with the Tigers, VerHagen started just eight games.

VerHagen could challenge fellow free agent signee Steven Matz, Johan Oviedo and Jake Woodford for the fifth starter role in the rotation. Former closers Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks have voiced wishes to move from the bullpen and become starting pitchers. However, Mozeliak said on Thursday night that there might not be enough time in Spring Training to properly get Reyes and Hicks ready for such duties because of the schedule’s compressed nature.

“I definitely think we feel like we’re going into this camp with depth in our rotation,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. “I always caution myself to not get too excited about the word ‘depth’ because it gets tested too quickly.

“Having said that, getting Alex and Jordan stretched [out to be starters] is going to be much more challenging than in a normal time. Now, having said that, we need to find out exactly what they’ve been doing to find out where they’re at [physically]. But, given the depth that we have, it’s going to be, ‘Would they actually win a spot in the rotation?’ Time will tell, but it’s very exciting to have these types of arms and to have these types of conversations on where that may go.”

The Cardinals are set to open Spring Training camp at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium on Sunday. Spring games will begin on Thursday with a new Spring Training schedule about to be released in the coming days. The Cardinals will open the regular season at Busch Stadium on April 7 against the Pirates. It will be just the third time in the past 12 years that the club will open the season in St. Louis.

In 2021, VerHagen finished up a two-year stint in the Japanese Pacific League by going 5-8 with a 3.84 ERA. He struck out 100 batters in 96 innings. In his two years in Japan, the former fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt was 13-14 with a 3.49 ERA over 208 2/3 innings pitched.

“We have been following Drew the past two seasons in Japan while playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters,” Mozeliak said in a release. “We believe he will compete for a starting job but could easily transition to the bullpen if needed. We are excited to have Drew join our organization.”