Today, the St. Louis Cardinals bolstered their bullpen, which could suffer some losses in free agency (and from the trickle-down effect of dealing away Shelby Miller), by signing 34-year-old righty Matt Belisle to a one-year, $3.5 million deal. According to Ken Rosenthal, the deal also includes incentives based on appearances that could take it up to $4 million.
It’s a lot of money to commit to a guy who hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.30 since 2012, and even that was 3.71. Last year, he was at a 4.87/3.74/3.92 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line. Belisle’s peripherals are much better, however, and you have to keep in mind that he’s been pitching in Coors Field for years. Last year, for example, his numbers at Coors were atrocious, whereas he was quite good on the road.
Clearly, the Cardinals are betting that Belisle’s results will improve dramatically outside of Coors, because, if not, he has the look of a guy who can be acquired rather cheaply much later in the offseason (or, better yet, developed internally). Last year, Belisle’s strikeout rate plummeted to just 15.3% and his walk rate ticked up to 6.7%.
It’s a small ticket item, and better arms would have cost the Cardinals a whole lot more. Still, I don’t love it for the Cardinals.
Of course, voodoo magic and all that, so I’m not going to bet against a huge year for Belisle. And, if he does have a huge year, that’ll really help a Cardinals bullpen that might otherwise look a little shaky. If nothing else Belisle certainly takes the ball a lot:
most relief appearances since the start of 2010:
1. Clippard: 371
2. Matt Belisle: 367
3. Gregerson: 363
4. Ziegler: 353
5. Joe Smith: 342
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) December 2, 2014