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Five Relievers the Cardinals Could Potentially TARGET via Trade


On MLB Network, Jon Morosi mentioned that every single team that will be buying relievers at the trade deadline will be chasing Oakland’s Mason Miller. However, with 5 years of control remaining on Miller, Morosi does not see him being moved. He says, however, that with the right circumstances, these are the 5 back end relievers he COULD see being moved at the deadline.


The first of the five is Carlos Estevez of the Los Angeles Angels.


What is so good about him? Why would the Cardinals want him?


Carlos Estevez has been an absolute stud in the back end of the pen for the Angels with a 25.5 K%-BB% and an 9.0 K:BB on the season. In 25 innings he’s faced only 94 batters with a 2.92 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, 0.84 WHIP, and .200 batting average against. You want more traditional stats? He has a 3.24 ERA on the year. The 6’6”, 275+ lb righty has a 2.45 xERA as well.


So what’s not great about him? What will keep his cost down? 


This is the first time since 2016, Estevez’s rookie year, that he has an xERA below 4. He has struggled once runners have been on base this year - something you don’t necessarily want out of your back end of your bullpen. His 3.3% BB rate is a third of his career norms - will it last? Also, when players hit the ball they hit it hard off of him with a HH% over 40% - right around his career norms.


Who is he as a pitcher?


Carlos Estevez throws a four-seam fastball (4sm) 63% of the time this year and he throws it hard. His average fastball velo is over 96 mph and he touches 100. So that’s a bit more heat in the back end of your bullpen and it’s coming from a giant of a man. He backs that up with a slider he throws 27% of the time at 89 mph. It looks like he might have two different sliders that he throws - I’m not great at analyzing that sort of thing but there’s a bit of a double hump on the velocities of his slider with a portion of them coming in more around 86 mph and a portion of them coming in more around 88 mph. It might explain his CSW% (called and swinging strike percentage) on sliders being well above his career norms and the highest of his career at 44.7% (career 33.8%) despite the usage of the slider being about the same. He also shows a change up (9% of the time) at 89 mph and has thrown three curveballs (1%) at 83 mph. The slider is used against right-handed hitters much more predominantly and the changeup is used exclusively against left-handed hitters. The fastball usage doesn’t vary greatly.


 

The next up is University of Missouri product, Pete Fairbanks of the Tampa Bay Rays.


What is so good about him? Why would the Cardinals want him?


Pete Fairbanks has thrown in 28 games and thrown 27⅔ innings in 2024. He basically has a 16% K-BB% on the year, which isn’t phenomenal but it’s good. It’s high enough because of his very good K rate of 26.5%. His FIP of 2.75 is the second lowest of these 5 guys, as is his xFIP. His xERA backs up his great season at 2.90.


So what’s not great about him? What will keep his cost down? 


In Fairbanks’ 6 year career, he’s already got his third most games pitched and innings pitched in the majors thus far. He is less than 20 innings and 21 appearances away from his most ever in the majors. His K-BB% is lower because he’s walking a league average amount of batters. His WHIP of 1.23 is okay not great and he’s had similar left on base issues this year as Estevez. Lastly, his K/9 and K% are way down this year and his velocity on his fastball is down from the last two years as well. That could signal injury, even if it is still in the 92nd percentile league-wide.


Who is he as a pitcher?


The 6’6” 225 lb righty throws a 97.1 mph 4-seam fastball about 52.5% of the time. He gets a whiff on the pitch over 23% of the time. Basically the rest of the time he throws an 84.8 mph slider. That gets whiffs nearly 27% of the time. Like Estevez before him, Fairbanks can touch 100 mph with the fastball. What really intrigues me is that he is a RH pitcher who uses the slider as more of a putaway pitch when facing lefties.


 

The next man up is a former dominant closer in Kenley Jansen of the Boston Red Sox.


What is so good about him? Why would the Cardinals want him?


Kenley Jansen knows what it takes to be at the back end of a bullpen and how to perform once in that role. He has 15 saves already for the Red Sox in just 27 games this year. I am not sure why he would be available with where the Red Sox are at, in all honesty, but I trust Jon Morosi’s sources much more than my mostly nonexistent ones. Of all the guys on this list, Jansen still, at age 36, has the best strikeout stuff with over 29% of plate appearances ending up with a strike three called or swung on. His FIP is at a sterling 2.13 in his 27 appearances. Hitters are batting .189 against him, so his 1.06 WHIP is phenomenal as well. He has yet to allow a homer this year as well.


So what’s not great about him? What will keep his cost down? 


While Jansen does have swing and miss strikeout stuff, he has walked 10% of his batters faced this year, however. Sometimes batted ball luck can be just that, and without allowing a single homer this year, his sterling 2.13 FIP becomes an xFIP of 3.97 - the second worst on this list - when you account for home run luck. He is a huge fly ball pitcher and that luck could turn at any second. Will it? Who knows! That’s the fun of all this, no? Also, you have to figure in as a “what’s not great about him” that he’s 36 years old and that the wheels can fall off at any moment basically.


Who is he as a pitcher?


Kenley Jansen is still Kenley Jansen. He throws a hard cutter 90% of the time - at about 92 mph. It’s used even more against right-handed pitching at around 95% of the time. He still gets whiffs on it a quarter of the time and he still can use it as his putaway pitch. He’s incorporating sinkers and sliders at about 5% of the time each. He throws the sinker slightly more often at 94 mph (and much more often against lefties) and is getting whiffs at a huge rate this year - over 41% of the time. It’s a big putaway pitch for him in 2024. His slider comes in around 83 mph and he has not gotten a single player to whiff on the ball in his 20 sliders thrown. However, he also has allowed nobody to get a hit off of it either. It’s mostly used as a setup pitch or a show pitch as only 4 of the 20 sliders have ended a plate appearance.


 

The next pitcher up is Marlins closer Tanner Scott, the only lefty on the list.


What is so good about him? Why would the Cardinals want him?


Tanner Scott is a lefty that throws often, throws hard, and has a 1.59 ERA in 34 innings currently. He is not striking out people at the same pace as the last couple of years but he is closing games this year and still is striking out nearly a quarter of the batters he’s facing. He’s got a 93rd percentile for xBA as well, so he’s not allowing hits either! He’s got a really good ground ball rate out of the bullpen as well. Striking people out and getting ground balls (hello Carlos Martinez in his prime) is a huge recipe for success!


So what’s not great about him? What will keep his cost down? 


Tanner Scott may not allow hits, but he is walking the world right now at over 16% of batters faced. This is not new to him as his career BB% is over 13% and he’s had full seasons in the 14s and 15s before as well. It’s not hurting him at the moment with that 1.59 ERA I cited above, but it’s also why his xERA, FIP, and xFIP are all between 3.57 and 4.27 instead of well below 2.


Who is he as a pitcher?


Tanner Scott is another fastball-slider guy that teams like the Cardinals could be looking at. The Cardinals love their sliders out of their pitching staff in 2024 and Scott throws his at 88 mph and around 41% of the time overall. Interestingly enough, he throws it more like 43% of the time to right-handed batters and less to lefties. His 4-seam fastball comes in 57% of the time at around 97 mph. Hitters have whiffed on his 4-seam fastball over a quarter of the time this year, which is great. It pales in comparison to him missing bats over 40% of the time with the slider. He also has a higher CSW%, Whiff %, and GB rate with the slider. It’s his top pitch for sure.


 

The last pitcher I’ll look at today is Kyle Finnegan of the Washington Nationals.


What is so good about him? Why would the Cardinals want him?


Kyle Finnegan has already given the Nationals 33 games and 32 ⅓ innings this season. In the process, he has 35 strikeouts and only 33 hits and walks combined with a K:BB over 3.0. His K-BB% is a very nice 18.6%. His 1.02 WHIP is good. His ERA is pretty at 2.23. You’ll read more about this in the third section but he would diversify the skill set of the bullpen a little bit.


So what’s not great about him? What will keep his cost down? 


Kyle Finnegan has allowed more home runs than you’d like and you’d hope those numbers would come down coming to Busch Stadium. His HR/FB has just gotten higher and higher each and every year, though…so who knows if it would decline coming here. The 2.23 ERA listed earlier with an average HR rate allowed still jumps to a 3.17 xFIP, which is still good. But if you ignore that reverting to the mean of HRs allowed, his FIP and xERA are both around 4.00. Not sure you want a back end reliever allowing 4 runs per 9.


Who is he as a pitcher?


Kyle Finnegan has a 97 mph 4-seam fastball that he throws ⅔ of the time. That’s probably too much as he doesn’t get many whiffs on it and he doesn’t really use it as a put away pitch either. Finnegan’s pitch that would be a new look out of the bullpen would be his split-finger that he throws 28% of the time at about 89 mph. The split-finger has a much lower batting average against than the 4-seam, but the slugging against it is huge. He’s thrown it much less often than the fastball but has given up the same amount of extra base hits against both pitches. His splitter has allowed 4 extra base hits and just two singles against it. So when it’s hit, it’s hit hard. It whiffs bats nearly 35% of the time, though. If I were the Cardinals and we acquired FInnegan, I’d get him to up his usage of his slider, which is 85 mph and is thrown just 5.5% of the time so far this year. He’s only thrown 27 sliders, exclusively to right-handed batters, and it’s ended 8 plate appearances. He’s got three strikeouts with the pitch and has allowed just 1 hit on 5 batted balls largely because he gets mostly weak grounders with it (or strikeouts). When it’s not hit, it’s whiffed on 38+% of the time.


 

So there’s a look at all five relievers mentioned by Jon Morosi. Knowing what you know now, which one would you go after if you were the Cardinals? Why?

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