The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been an utter disaster this season. It's not just one or two guys, it's everyone. The only two relievers with an ERA below 4.00 are Edward Mujica and Randy Choate. Joe Kelly has seen little game time since his early struggles and lack of a need for relievers before the seventh inning due to the success by the starting rotation. Fernando Salas looks like he could use a stint in the minors to figure out what he's doing wrong as he looks completely lost on the mound. Trevor Rosenthal still looks shaky on the mound despite working himself out of his own jam in the eighth inning on Monday. Mitchell Boggs is likely to be relegated to low-leverage situations until his confidence is rebuilt and shows he can retire good hitters once again. With Eduardo Sanchez on the DL, there are no appealing options in the Cardinals farm system. It appears the Cardinals will have to either look outside the organization or hope Jason Motte recovers by May 1st, the date set to decide whether or not he will have Tommy John or will begin rehab.
That said, there are few options outside the organization that wouldn't require GM John Mozeliak to give up quality prospects for a short term fix. There is, however, one option that many believe the Cardinals could be interested in: signing Brian Wilson. In case you have forgotten, Wilson is the original Giants "Fear the Beard" campaign closer who closed for the San Francisco Giants when they won the World Series in 2010. He had his second Tommy John surgery last April when his arm gave way once again.
Obviously, there are some concerns with Wilson. First, the prognosis for recovering from a second Tommy John surgery isn't good. That said, Wilson stated in March that he was about 80-85% ready. This brings up a second concern where he stated that he would not allow his agent to discuss a contract with any team until he is 100%. Additionally, he has said that he will refuse any minor league contract that would require him to spend time in the minors before being pitching in the majors and wants a guaranteed contract. Finally, there is dissension among critics about how his antics would affect the bullpen and the clubhouse, especially if he struggles. This is all, of course, ignoring the question as to how effective he will be.
Concerning the contract, the Cardinals may be willing to abide his demands as bad as their current relievers are struggling which certainly affords them the opportunity to take a flier on a recovering player with an established history of success. If Wilson's demands are reasonable, the Cardinals could be willing to nab him for up to $3 million to finish the year. It is hard to see them paying much more, but logically Wilson shouldn't get a much better offer until the offseason once he has proven he can be effective again.
Even with Mujica quietly getting the job done thus far in the closer role, the Cardinals simply can't afford to bank on him for the long haul of the season. He is an elite seventh inning man and a solid set up reliever, but he has never shown the consistency and makeup of a closer. If the Cardinals did manage to acquire Wilson, he wouldn't immediately be the closer but would hopefully be able to take over the role as the season progresses which would push Mujica back to a setup role, stabilizing the bullpen. Assuming Wilson proves to be effective of course.
Then there is the question of his antics. Many see him as a clown who rarely takes things seriously which could easily be a major distraction for a team trying to compete. They often point to his "finger dancing" episode during last year's playoffs. What they seem to forget, however, is that his team one the World Series against the odds despite his so-called distraction. They also won the World Series with him as their closer saving over 40 games in 2010. The Cardinals have endured other such "distractions" in the form of Lance Berkman and Octavio Dotel who were notable pranksters in the clubhouse. Also, let's not forget the "Rally Squirrel" and Torty, Allen Craig's pet turtle. This is a club that seems to respond well to having the mood lightened in the clubhouse, and the bullpen is certainly in need of such a mood lightener. Let's not forget one crucial element, that despite his seemingly clown-like demeanor, he has been one of, if not the most fierce competitors in the ninth inning his last few seasons.
Unfortunately, no one seems to know when Wilson will be "100%" ready. It could be next week, it could be June, or never. Assuming he is ready soon, many are likely saying that a team would have to be desperate to spend guaranteed money on severely damaged goods. Well, make no mistake, the Cardinals ARE desperate and in need of help soon, especially if Motte is shut down for surgery. However, it remains to be seen what Mozeliak has up his sleeve, but keep in mind, he is not one to remain idle while his contending ball club is struggling.
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