Posted on December 10, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine

Luke Gregerson

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The St. Louis Cardinals have taken their first step toward rebuilding their bullpen this offseason. The Cardinals have agreed to sign reliever Luke Gregerson. The two sides have reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $11 million. There is also a $5 million club option or $6 million vesting option for the 2020 season. The deal is pending a physical, which is set to take place on Tuesday.

The move is a homecoming of sorts for Gregerson. The Cardinals originally drafted him in the 28th round of the 2006 draft. However, he was traded to the Padres early in 2009 and made his major league debut for San Diego later that year. The 33-year old Gregerson has spent the last three seasons with the Houston Astros, earning a World Series ring this past season.

Gregerson actually served as Houston’s closer early in his tenure with the Astros. However, things went downhill for him over his three years in Houston. After saving 31 games and posting a 3.10 ERA in 2015, Gregerson lost his job as the team’s closer midway through the 2016 season. His numbers continued to dip in 2017, as he finished the season with a career-high 4.57 ERA.

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That being said, Gregerson was one of the few reliable relievers the Astros had in the playoffs. During the 2017 postseason, saved three games and posted a 1.08 ERA in 10 appearances. He became an underrated contributor to the Astros during their World Series run.

Despite a growing ERA in recent years, Gregerson continues to strike out batters at a high rate. He had 70 strikeouts in 61 innings in 2017, and that ability to miss bats is still valuable coming out of the bullpen. Gregerson also remains a ground ball heavy pitcher, which is also a valuable skill for a relief pitcher. He may not be a closer or even a top-flight setup man anymore. But Gregerson can still be a useful part of a big league bullpen. The Cardinals are hoping he can be a meaningful contributor at this level for at least two more years.

Gregerson may be the first but he definitely won’t be the last addition to the St. Louis bullpen this winter. The Cardinals have serious work to do with the likes of Trevor Rosenthal, Seung Hwan Oh, and Juan Nicasio, all important relievers last season, now free agents.

The Cardinals are expected to have interest in free-agent closers like Wade Davis and Greg Holland. They’ve also been connected with Rays closer Alex Colome in trade rumors. It would be surprising if St. Louis doesn’t add an established closer this offseason.

If the Cardinals can find a bonafide closer, Gregerson would join a contingent of setup men the Cardinals could utilize in a variety of ways. That group also includes Brett Cecil, John Brebbia, and Tyler Lyons. On paper, that group is overly impressive. But they would still make up a solid bullpen, especially if the Cardinals are able to add an elite closer. The addition of Gregerson is just the first step in St. Louis putting together a bullpen that can help them win in 2018.

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