LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cardinals' two-year deal with free-agent reliever Luke Gregerson became official on Wednesday after Gregerson passed his physical. The agreement guarantees Gregerson $11 million and includes a vesting option for a third year.
The signing reunites the Cardinals with a player they selected back in the 28th round of the 2006 MLB Draft, and it gives them another experienced arm to plug into the back end of the bullpen. Two years ago, Gregerson was closing games for the Astros.
"When you look at somebody like Luke, that's what we found attractive about him," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "There are a lot of times that you look at a talented player who has a lot of tools yet struggles in the ninth. And I think in our case, when you look back at last year, our inability to close out games was something that was frustrating, so having someone who has done it before is certainly a value add."
Gregerson never made it to the Majors during his previous stint in the Cardinals' organization. Instead, that debut came with the Padres, who acquired the right-hander as the player to be named to complete a trade that brought Khalil Greene to the Cardinals.
He spent five years with the Padres before pitching for the A's and Astros. He became a free agent after the 2017 season, which was the final year under the $18.5 million contract Gregerson signed with the Astros in December 2014.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to be a part of a winning organization and to go back to the team that drafted me," Gregerson said. "They're a winning team. They always find ways to put guys on the field who are capable of what needs to be done to find themselves back in the postseason. Even though it's been a couple years now, you can see the fight that has been there, and they have just fallen short at the end. I think it just takes a few pieces here and there to put it back together."
Gregerson, 33, labored with Houston this past season, posting a 4.57 ERA and surrendering 13 home runs in 61 innings pitched. But the right-hander has a career 3.02 ERA and a 9.1 K/9 rate over nine MLB seasons. He has averaged 69 appearances per season over his Major League career.
He did undergo recent surgery to have the hamate bone in his left hand removed. Gregerson suffered the injury late in the year while trying to glove a comebacker to the mound. He is expected to be fully recovered by the start of Spring Training.
The addition of Gregerson fills up the Cardinals' 40-man roster, which means they will not be eligible to select a player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Gregerson does not immediately jump out as a prime ninth-inning option due to his 2017 performance (4.57 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), but he owns an impressive lifetime 3.02 ERA and logged a closer-esque 10.4 K/9 rate across the past two seasons. With more career saves (66) than any member of the current Cardinals bullpen, the righty should remain on mixed-league draft lists unless St. Louis makes further bullpen moves this winter.