But the Redbirds sure have plenty of options in the relief corps, adding former Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland on a one-year contract in the last hours before opening day games began. It's a move St. Louis fans embraced on social media as soon as the word started to circulate. I have mentioned many times that I am a subscriber to the belief that there is no such thing as having too much good pitching. But it will be interesting to see how Holland fits into the mix with his new club.
Why? Because the Cardinals signed Luke Gregerson to be their closer. Then they signed former St. Louis nemesis Bud Norris to be their Plan B in the ninth inning. On Monday, the Birds seemed to push the button to activate a third option at the end of games by calling up fireballing righty Jordan Hicks to the big league club to start his audition as closer of the future.
That last move seemed to be the final nail in the Holland to St. Louis rumors that persisted throughout the baseball off-season. But then the news broke that, following a minor league tune up, Holland will be St. Louis bound.
The easy answer would be that Gregerson would move to the eighth inning to be a setup man, Norris would move into a swingman role, pitching multiple innings when Wainwright, Martinez and Wacha run up their pitch count early or filling in as a spot starter and Hicks could work in the sixth or seventh inning to cut his teeth against major league pitchers. But how will a demotion before they even got a chance to play sit with Gregerson and Norris? Major league players typically come with major league issues, so it might be a bone of contention that causes clubhouse issues.
Playing time might also be an issue in the middle innings if everyone moves an inning forward. The Cardinals can't demote Sam Tuivailala because he's out of options. Dominic Leone and Brett Cecil aren't going anywhere, nor is Tyler Lyons. So does workhorse righty Matt Bowman get the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately demotion? Or would Hicks be better served to go to Class AA Springfield or Class AAA Memphis to work everyday as a closer? That might be the plan since, to make room for Hicks on the 40-man roster, the Birds cut loose Memphis closer Josh Lucas.
I suppose their is some value to giving Hicks, who made his major league debut Thursday against the New York Mets, a chance to taste the major leagues. I have to imagine that, as bad as young players want to make the big leagues in the first place, they probably would be obsessed with getting back there after a small taste of The Show. But is that worth starting his major league service clock and giving up a decent prospect in Lucas?
The Cardinals also had to give up a draft pick to sign Holland, so there is more to this deal than signing a guy people thought was going to get $60 million over four years to a pact that pays $14 million for one. But the nice thing about the contract is that, if the team decides it doesn't need Holland either because it isn't a contender or else because the other options are capable of doing the job, they might be able to pick up a decent haul for an established closer at the trade deadline.
No matter how it works out, at least it seems like the Cardinals are serious about trying to win this year as opposed to rebuilding for a year or two down the road.