Gallegos agrees to 2-year extension with Cardinals

October 4th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- For a Cardinals squad that values versatility, Giovanny Gallegos proved his worth this season as a trusted set-up reliever and one who has shown steady improvement against left-handed hitters even after losing his closer job.

Because of those reasons, the Cardinals finalized a contract extension with the 31-year-old Gallegos that could potentially keep him wearing the birds on the bat across his chest through the 2025 season. Gallegos, who has a career-tying-best 14 saves, signed a two-year deal -- with a club option for the third year -- that will allow him to avoid a second round of arbitration.

“It’s not that easy not thinking too much about [the contract extension] and it’s been hard,” said Gallegos, who is 3-6 with a 3.05 ERA this season. “But now, with this extension, my confidence is 100, 200 percent. Now, I’m just thinking about trying to help my team win a World Series.”

Gallegos struggled through a rough outing Monday in Pittsburgh, walking the bases loaded in the ninth inning. JoJo Romero replaced Gallegos and walked rookie Oneil Cruz to give the Pirates a 3-2, walk-off win.

“I’m not sure if he just didn’t have a great feel for the slider, but it was good to get him out there on a little bit of a cold night because we’re going to be playing in that,” said Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, referring to the 35-degree temperatures predicted for Saturday night in St. Louis during the upcoming Wild Card Series.

Gallegos started his season as the Cardinals’ closer, but he lost that role because of his struggles against left-handed hitters. He has blown six of his 20 save opportunities. Ryan Helsley, an All-Star for the first time in his career this season, moved into the closer’s role and has compiled a 9-1 record with a 1.26 ERA while closing out 19 of his 23 save opportunities.

Gallegos battled through his midseason struggles and emerged as seventh in the National League among qualified relievers in WHIP (1.02) and 15th in batting average against (.197). His second-half improvement has brought the batting average against by lefties (.226) closer to how he smothers righties (.175) with his fastball, changeup and slider.

That work impressed Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and GM Michael Girsch enough to reward Gallegos with a two-year extension. Gallegos currently has a base salary of $2.41 million, and signing the extension will allow the pitcher and team to avoid salary arbitration.

“You look at his track record with the St. Louis Cardinals, and he has been used in multiple roles and he’s excelled in all of them,” said Mozeliak, who had been working with Gallegos’ representatives on a contract extension since Spring Training. “I think this gives him a little peace of mind as well, and it feels good [to keep Gallegos] under contract.”

The Cardinals’ bullpen ranks fourth in the NL in ERA (3.67), fifth in fewest walks allowed (212) and fifth in fewest home runs allowed (59), but just 11th in saves (37). Helsley, who has thrown MLB’s fastest pitch three times this season and recently recorded just the third immaculate inning in franchise history, is likely headed for a big raise in arbitration after making $722,450 this season.

St. Louis acquired Gallegos in a 2018 trade with the Yankees and since then he’s led all Cardinals pitchers in ERA (2.82), batting average against (.182), strikeouts per nine innings (11.12), hits per nine innings (5.76) and WHIP (0.893). Gallegos said it’s been his goal to pitch for the Cardinals the rest of his career if possible.  

“Since the day I got here, I’ve wanted to stay here, and my conviction and focus has always been to help this team win,” Gallegos said via translator Polingas Lingas. “Let’s win and win together.”