In the wake of the Chicago Cubs’ most recent signing of injured starting pitcher Drew Smyly, let’s take a look at another pitcher who is in a very similar situation: former St. Louis Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal. There have been no reports of any connections between the two parties to date, but it is something that the Cubs could consider as they look to build upon their solid foundation of players.
Cubs fans should be very familiar with Rosenthal, a 27-year old flame-throwing relief pitcher who spent a couple seasons as a shutdown closer for the division rival Cardinals. From 2013-15 he was the one guy that could come into the game in any tough situation and slam the door on any potential comeback, and that resulted in a 2.66 ERA and 11.5 K/9 rate over his first four years in the majors. Injuries have set him back a little and brought his numbers back down a bit, but his career totals are still at very respectable marks.
Across six seasons in the big leagues Rosenthal owns 121 total saves, and also has a career 2.99 ERA, 2.60 WHIP, a whopping 12.0 K/9 rate, and a solid 3.04 K/BB rate to go along with it. His best season came in 2015 when he put up a 2.10 ERA, 48 saves, and even earned some MVP votes in a campaign that earned him a nod to the All-Star game.
He had originally been signed through the end of next season, but in the wake of his surgery the Cardinals chose to grant him his outright release instead of going through the arbitration process and retaining him for next year. This article by Mike Axisa of CBS Sports does a great job of explaining the entire situation regarding the Cardinals’ decision to release him instead of waiting it out, but if you’re looking for the short version of the story then it’s mostly about the money owed to him.
Signing Rosenthal would not be an immediate solution to fill a hole in the roster like the addition of Tyler Chatwood was aimed to be. Rosenthal underwent Tommy John surgery in August, so with a typical 12-15 month recovery period there is a very good chance that he could miss the entire 2018 season. Instead it would work more as a future investment that could give the club a big boost to the bullpen for at least 2019. That was the same thinking behind their signing of Smyly who had his own Tommy John procedure in June, putting him a couple of months ahead of Rosenthal in the recovery process. And like the Cubs did with Smyly, they could add performance-based bonuses to Rosenthal’s contract for the 2019 season for categories like appearances, innings pitched, or saves.
Knowing the kind of production he has put up in his big league career to date, Trevor Rosenthal could be a monster at the back end of the Cubs bullpen. At just 27-years old, he still has several prime years left in him and could play a pivotal role in the near future. However he could elect to go the Greg Holland route and take a year off to focus on his recovery, but if I were in the Cubs front office I would be pushing to lock him up and take him off the market before another team got to him first.
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