The Cardinals have signed Bud Norris to a one-year deal to add some depth to their bullpen. They have yet to acquire a lights-out proven closer, meaning the team’s ninth-inning role needs to be closely monitored.
For Norris, he’s become a decent reliever once he began his transition to the bullpen in 2015. As a reliever, his walk rate stayed the same, while his strikeouts jumped from ~8 K/9 to 10 K/9. While the strikeouts increased, he has not seen an improvement in his ERA because he seems more hittable. Last season, he broke through with a 2.23 ERA in the first half until a knee injury derailed his season. Overall, he posted a 4.21 ERA in 62 innings for the Angels.
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Norris joins a crowded Cardinals bullpen where no one stands out. Besides Norris, I could see a case for Luke Gregerson, Brett Cecil, Tyler Lyons, Alex Reyes, or Dominic Leone possibly getting some saves. This situation is tough to figure out.
This is how I’d approach the situation on draft day: Grab the Opening Day closer, which right now appears to be Gregerson. While he holds the job, get as many saves as possible. Otherwise, stay away from the other roles until a hierarchy gets established. One of the other arms — potentially Reyes if he’s sent to the bullpen when he joins the Cardinals in May — will emerge as the obvious replacement if Gregerson fails. That said, it’s really tough to determine who will set up right now and who will fall right on their face.
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