ST. LOUIS -- He's been a member of the organization for only 24 days, but reliever Juan Nicasio said on Saturday that he has significant interest in turning that into a much longer stay.Making that happen would require an extension, as Nicasio is due to be a free agent for
ST. LOUIS -- He's been a member of the organization for only 24 days, but reliever Juan Nicasio said on Saturday that he has significant interest in turning that into a much longer stay.
Making that happen would require an extension, as Nicasio is due to be a free agent for the first time in his career at the end of the season.
"I would definitely like to come back," Nicasio said through a translator before picking up the save in St. Louis' 7-6 comeback win over Milwaukee. "This is a winning franchise and a team that has had a lot of success, and I would like to come back for another year or however long they'd like to extend me and hopefully win a championship."
The interest is mutual, too. As the Cardinals face a winter in which they need to restock their bullpen, Nicasio could fit as a setup man or closer option. The Cards have used Nicasio as both since acquiring him in a Sept. 6 trade with the Phillies.
"I think it gave him an opportunity to see what we're all about here, because there's no doubt that we're always looking for ways to improve, especially when it comes to the bullpen and guys who can throw toward the end of the game," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think it's been good for both sides so far, especially for us. It's been a shot to the arm for our bullpen, and he's come in and done a fantastic job in a much-needed time."
The Cardinals will have a period of exclusivity during which they can negotiate with Nicasio before free agency opens following the World Series. Most free agents prefer to wait until after they test their value on the open market to sign. Nicasio offered that he would be open to a different approach.
"I'm definitely open to it and would actually like that, because once you start free agency, there are so many different teams and options coming at you," Nicasio said when asked about the possibility of beginning extension talks in October. "It could give me a clear head to be able to get that done before. But, unfortunately, I don't control that. The front office, the coaches and my agent do. But I would definitely be interested."
Nicasio transitioned into a full-time relief role for the Pirates this season, and he will end the year as the Cardinals' closer. It's a role the Cards will have to fill again in 2018, with Trevor Rosenthal expected to miss most of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The bullpen will be further thinned by the expected departures of free agents Zach Duke and Seunghwan Oh.
The Cardinals' short look at Nicasio as a closer has left an impression. Nicasio, who collected his seventh career save on Saturday, has shown them enough to believe that he could close for the long term.
Of returning in that role, Nicasio said: "I would definitely like that. That would be a big step up and comes with a lot of responsibility -- not just physically, but mentally."
Nicasio, who made $3.65 million this year, enters the final day of the 2017 season having posted a 2.61 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP over 76 appearances.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," Matheny said. "I like the way he's talking to our young players. I like the way he's talking about competing and wanting the ball every day. Those are things that fit in around here."
• Though they haven't been officially shut down for the year, it's unlikely that Kolten Wong or William Fowler will play this weekend. Matheny described Fowler as "just beat up from the season," while Wong continues to deal with nagging lower back tightness.
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.