Posted on December 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Miles Mikolas

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Miles Mikolas is getting another chance to pitch in the big leagues. The St. Louis Cardinals announced Tuesday that they have signed Mikolas to a two-year contract worth a reported $15.5 million. Mikolas has spent the last three years pitching in Japan and should provide the St. Louis pitching staff with depth and flexibility in his return to the majors.

The 29-year old Mikolas first came up with the San Diego Padres in 2012. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2014 with the Texas Rangers. Across three big league seasons, he has 10 starts and 27 relief appearances, going 4-6 with a 5.32 ERA. However, scouts have been impressed with his stuff and his productivity over the past three seasons as a member of the Yomiuru Giants in Japan.

In 62 starts over three seasons, Mikolas is 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA. During the 2017 season, Mikolas led Japan’s Central League in both innings pitched and strikeouts. He was also second in ERA at 2.25. Those numbers are impressive enough for the Cardinals to take a chance on him.

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Obviously, how Mikolas will readjust to pitching in the big leagues after failing to establish himself earlier in his career is uncertain. But at age 29, he should be in the prime of his career. It stands to reason that after being one of the top pitchers in Japan, he should be a serviceable big leaguer Financially, he also comes cheaper than most proven back-end starters on the free-agent market. It’s a risky move but one that has more upside than downside.

The Cardinals needed to bolster their rotation this offseason, and so this is a good step in the right direction. St. Louis is likely to lose Lance Lynn in free agency, leaving a big hole at the top of their rotation. It’s also possible that veteran Michael Wacha or young starters like Jake Flaherty or Sandy Alcantara could be traded to the Miami Marlins if the Cardinals are able to work out a trade for Giancarlo Stanton. The Cardinals are also unsure what they’ll get out of top prosect Alex Reyes, who had Tommy John surgery in February.

If the season started today, Mikolas would likely be on the outside of the starting rotation. However, having him in the folds gives the Cardinals more flexibility to trade away a young starter like Flaherty or Alcantara. It also gives St. Louis added depth in case they’re unable to re-sign Lynn or add one of the top starters on the market like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish. If Mikolas is pushed into the bullpen, it may not be such a bad thing for the Cardinals. However, it’s more likely that he ends up being a fixture in the St. Louis rotation in 2018.

The Cardinals definitely thought outside the box when signing Mikolas. However, he has the chance to be a cost-efficient pitcher who fills a number of roles on the St. Louis pitching staff in 2018. Based on the organization’s history with pitchers, one shouldn’t discount Mikolas making a meaningful impact for the Cardinals this season.

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