McFarland inks one-year deal with Cardinals
The Cardinals remade their bullpen on the fly during their roller coaster 2021 season, vaulting from one that featured sky-high walk rates to one that performed admirably en route to a third consecutive postseason appearance.
As it turns out, some of those relationships were for more than just papering over one season.
St. Louis announced on Monday morning that it signed left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland to a one-year deal to return for 2022, bringing back a ground-ball savant with a penchant for escaping jams and inciting a remarkable number of double plays -- some of the viral variety.
The deal is worth $2.5 million, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, with an additional $500,000 available in possible incentives. The club has not confirmed the value of the deal.
McFarland, 32, signed as a free agent with the Cardinals on July 1 after pitching in the Minors for the Nationals and immediately proved a seamless fit. He pitched to a 2.56 ERA across 38 2/3 innings (38 appearances), and became, at one point, the Cardinals' most trusted lefty option out of the bullpen.
He trusted his defense -- one now with five Gold Glove winners -- as a perfect marriage with his ground-ball tendencies. Three times this season he entered a jam and proceeded to escape it on a double play needing just three or fewer pitches. In all, he made 13 appearances this season necessitating fewer than 10 pitches.
McFarland was always a prime candidate to return for 2022 given his success in '21. Also on that wavelength is righty Luis García, 34, who joined the Cardinals as another free agent on July 9 and proceeded to pitch to a 3.24 ERA in 34 appearances. Each pitcher of vastly different skillsets was a wonder; both carried scoreless game streaks of at least 18 games to go from castoffs of other organizations to steadying forces in St. Louis.
Returning McFarland is a welcome sign for the Cards' bullpen, which lost lefty Andrew Miller to free agency but otherwise appears mostly set with Giovanny Gallegos set to anchor the back end, though upgrades remain possible. At the very least, the signing of McFarland less than a week after the World Series is a stark departure from last offseason, when the Cardinals didn't ink a player to a Major League contract until the final week of January.