Cardinals bolster 'pen with ex-Fish closer Cishek
St. Louis sends Double-A pitcher Barraclough to Miami for righty, who's trending in positive direction
ST. LOUIS -- Though their bullpen boasts the Majors' second-lowest ERA (2.37), the Cardinals had enough growing concern over the heavy usage of their three late-inning relievers to pounce a week before the non-waiver Trade Deadline and acquire right-hander Steve Cishek from the Marlins.
To finalize the deal, the Cardinals sent Double-A reliever Kyle Barraclough to Miami and agreed to pay the remainder of Cishek's $6.65 million salary this year. Cishek will be arbitration-eligible again after the season.
"When you think about roles right now, the reason you have confidence in that deal is because he can go seventh, eighth or ninth," said general manager John Mozeliak, who made a similar Trade Deadline deal with the Marlins in 2012 to land reliever Edward Mujica. "When you think about currently how we're winning games and how much pressure we're putting on those relievers, just giving somebody a break makes sense."
Entering Friday, Kevin Siegrist had made more appearances (49) than anyone in the Majors. Seth Maness ranked second with 48. Randy Choate and Trevor Rosenthal are also high on the list, meaning that the Cardinals are carrying four of the 14 NL pitchers with at least 45 appearances.
"To be able to be in the position we are right now and grab another good arm that has had some success in the back of the 'pen, I think it is a real good move for us," manager Mike Matheny said. "I know he's had the kind of season that's been a little bit different. He fought through some things and he's right back now to being the pitcher we've seen the last couple of seasons."
Cishek, who is expected to join the Cardinals on Saturday, ranks third on Miami's all-time saves list with 94, but lost his spot as closer after converting just three of seven save chances to start the season. He was relegated to a setup role and was sent to the Minors for two weeks after posting a 6.98 ERA over his first 19 appearances.
But in 13 games since returning to the Majors, Cishek, 29, has been scored upon just once. He's shown better fastball velocity over the last month, as well as improved command.
"It just felt like, from a trend standpoint, it was going in the right direction," Mozeliak said.
Cishek also drew interest from the Dodgers, Pirates and Twins before the Marlins decided to take St. Louis' offer of the 25-year-old Barraclough, who was 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA and eight saves in nine chances in 23 games for Double-A Springfield this season. Upon joining the team, Cishek will be reunited with Choate, his former 'pen mate in Miami.
"To come in here and to have him here with that kind of experience, we're excited," Choate said. "I've already texted him a little bit and he said, in his text, that he's super excited. I just told him, 'Get ready for some playoff baseball.'"
The addition of Cishek comes just before the Cardinals expect to get Jordan Walden back in their bullpen. Mozaliek estimated that Walden's return will come before the end of this homestand, which would give the Cardinals yet another late-inning option.
To clear space on the 40-man roster for Cishek, the Cardinals transferred reliever Matt Belisle to the 60-day disabled list. Mozeliak described it as a "hard decision," given that Belisle likely will be ready to go before he's eligible to return on Aug. 26. The Cardinals preferred making this move over removing someone entirely from the roster and risking losing that player on waivers, as happened earlier this week with Ty Kelly.
The club will have to make another move on Saturday to add Cishek to the active roster. The Cardinals are considering returning to a 13-man pitching staff at that time.