The St. Louis Cardinals have reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with relief pitcher David Aardsma, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The veteran pitcher will join the team immediately and attempt to build a case to become part of the major league bullpen.
Manager Mike Matheny has been facing a decision on his bullpen in the last week of spring training. As Opening Day draws closer, the team struggled to identify a clear-cut option for their final bullpen spot.
The three internal candidates for the position are Jorge Rondon, Keith Butler and Scott McGregor. All three have demonstrated pros and cons to their game thus far. The Cardinals would like someone to step up and take charge. The concern seems to be that these three men are not quite ready to do that.
Aardsma was in spring camp with the Cleveland Indians on a minor league deal. Despite pitching well, the team was not going to offer him a major league contract. The pitcher and team agreed on a release so that he could explore other options.
The Cardinals came calling. Seeing an opportunity to add a veteran piece to a very young bullpen, the Cardinals have signed Aardsma to a contract that could pay the reliever one of two salaries, according to Goold:
He said that he agreed to a minor-league deal with the Cardinals and will have at least two outings to earn a spot on the major-league roster. He agreed to a two-way deal that pays him a different salary if he reaches the majors.
Ultimately, the move can have an impact on the team in multiple ways.
The Internal Candidates Are Likely Heading to the Minors
The move likely sends the immediate message that Rondon, Butler and McGregor are all destined to open the season in the minor leagues. Looking further into the future, the deal could impact other relief pitchers like Seth Maness and Pat Neshek, both projected to be part of the bullpen as the team opens the season in Cincinnati.
The Decision After Motte Returns is Challenging
Should Aardsma pitch well in spring and continue to do so during the early part of the season, the team will be faced with a tough decision when Jason Motte returns from injury. The decision could come down to the two veterans, Neshek and Aardsma, or it could see a young arm like Maness return to the minor leagues.
The In-Season Decision Could Allow Some Flexibility
A more drastic option could see Carlos Martinez return to Triple-A Memphis and continue working as a starter. This option could depend on just how impressive Aardsma is when the season starts and what the Cardinals' long-term plans may be for the season. This could ultimately be a best-case scenario as it would give the Cardinals the freedom to continue Martinez's development as a starter.
The addition of Aardsma will likely improve the bullpen to start the season. It certainly makes for some tough decisions down the road if everyone is performing well.
Tough decisions usually only come to successful teams.