Gregerson First Up for Closer

Stepping to the podium for his media session during the team’s Winter Warm-Up this morning, St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak elaborated on his comments from earlier in the week–in particular when asked who would be the team’s closer if the season started today.

“I think going into the season right now it will be Gregerson,” stated Mozeliak. “He has experience doing it. I do think, when you look at our bullpen, there’s going to be opportunities to see people take on more responsibility or more roles. There’s no doubt last year was a disappointment when you think about the blown saves, close games lost. But we also feel like this year we have a group of guys that are ready to take that next step up. In terms of who it looks like, it might be faceless today, but I feel like by the time we leave Jupiter, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what those roles look like.”

As a follow-up, the question was raised if rather than just Luke Gregerson handling the bulk of save opportunities there might be more of a collective effort, such as two or three pitchers who garner 10+ saves during the season?

“We’ve tried to build flexibility this year into our bullpen first and foremost,” answered Mozeliak. “I do think that Memphis to St. Louis corridor may be more active than we’ve seen in the past. Having said that, I do think managers in general like to have somebody they can count on in the ninth. Last year we went into the season thinking it was going to be Seung Hwan Oh. We had a rude awakening that that wasn’t going to work.

“Then we gravitated back to Trevor Rosenthal and he ends up having Tommy John. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work. I think one of the things we’re very excited about is we do have a lot of different faces who could end up doing that. But we also have the ability to take one of our younger, more dynamic arms and allow him to take that role as well if we feel like we can manage it properly in terms of usage.”

As he did previously, Mozeliak pointed to the team’s acquisitions of Marcell Ozuna and Miles Mikolas as filling the lineup and rotation needs, but he also allowed for more changes before the start of the season.

“I think when you look back, really to early October, I think we made it very clear what our objectives were,” said Mozeliak. “We felt like over the course of the next three months we were certainly able to accomplish a lot of those. I’ve heard a lot of people write and speculate, ‘Are you done? What’s next?’ The approach has always been for us, if there’s something we can do to improve, we’re going to look at that or explore that. I think most importantly, when you look at where our club is today, we certainly feel like we’re better off than we were when the season ended.

“We are very excited about the club we have assembled. But you also have to be somewhat cautious with that as well because there’s a lot of things that can still happen. If you recall last year for example, we were standing here talking about our rotation and somebody by the name of Alex Reyes. Then two and a half weeks later, he ends up injuring his elbow and then subsequently having Tommy John. So there is some level to always understand things still happen. On top of that, one of the things we’re most excited about from an organizational standpoint is the fact we have depth.

“When we define minor league depth or prospect depth, we’re really speaking about players at High-A, Double-A and Triple-a that we think will make an impact on our major league club sooner rather than later. And when you think about the arbitrage to go out and acquire someone you may have for two years, three years, it’s going to cost us players we think we’re going to have under control for six or seven. So the math for us just doesn’t work.
Right now, with all the things we’re looking at, our highest level of confidence is some of the talent we have internally.”

photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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