Cardinals Sign Veteran Reliever Matt Belisle

Former Colorado right-hander joins the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen on a one-year contract.

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have agreed on a one-year contract for the upcoming 2015 season with free-agent right-handed pitcher Matt Belisle (pronounced beh-LYLE).

Belisle, 34, brings added veteran experience to the Cardinals bullpen, having made 70 or more relief appearances in four of the last five seasons, including a National League-leading 80 in 2012. Belisle ranks 2nd in the majors in games pitched (367) since 2010 and his 91 Holds in that five-year span rank 10th in all of baseball.

The 6-4, 225-pound Belisle was 4-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 66 games for the Colorado Rockies last season, allowing just 19 walks in his 64.2 innings pitched. He has compiled a career mark of 48-54, 4.41 ERA in 524 games (724.1 IP) with Cincinnati (2003, 2005-08) and Colorado (2009-14) and his 92 career Holds with the Rockies rank 2nd in franchise history.

A native of Austin, Texas, Belisle has shown excellent command, allowing fewer than 20 walks in each of the past seven seasons and he’s posted a 2.2 walks/9 IP ratio over his career. Belisle was used exclusively as a starter by Cincinnati in 2007 when he made 30 of his 44 career starts. He won a career single-season high 10 games for the Rockies in 2011 to lead all Major League relievers.

Belisle joins recently-acquired right-handed reliever Jordan Walden (trade with Atlanta) in the Cardinals bullpen plans for 2015.

Brian Walton’s take

The Cardinals have now added their second veteran right-handed reliever for next season, with Belisle joining recently-acquired Jordan Walden. The two should step into late inning relief roles recently held by free agents Pat Neshek and Jason Motte and offer veteran presence to a bullpen in which out-of-favor lefty Randy Choate and two-year player Trevor Rosenthal were the most experienced options set to return for 2015.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports the one-year contract is worth $3.5 million. Belisle can earn bonuses of $150,000 for 50 appearances, $150,000 more for 60 appearances and $200,000 more for 70. That increases his maximum earnings potential to $4 million next season.

Part of Belisle’s ability to survive for six years in Colorado came from his ability to generate ground ball outs. Though his ERA was 4.87 last season, his FIP was a far more respectable 3.74.

The open question as a result of these moves is if they give Carlos Martinez a better chance of making the 2015 rotation - if he can beat out left-hander Marco Gonzales. In 2014 spring camp, Martinez out-pitched Joe Kelly in the eyes of many, yet was ultimately considered more valuable to the team in a relief role.

With this move, the Cardinals currently have 38 players on their 40-man roster – with non-tender decisions on six arbitration-eligible players due Tuesday night.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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