Following through on plans hinted upon in recent weeks, the St. Louis Cardinals have added a veteran pitcher. The club has come to terms with right-handed swingman Carlos Villanueva on a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp.
With the 2014 Chicago Cubs, Villanueva, 31, posted a 4.64 ERA, but his FIP was just 3.13. In 77 2/3 innings across 37 relief appearances and five starts last season, his second year with the club, he struck out 72 and walked just 19.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder started early in the year when Jake Arrieta was injured and made another spot start in July when Jeff Samardzija was traded. To say Villanueva struggled would be putting it mildly, as his ERA was 10.53 as a starter. As a reliever, however, the Dominican Republic native posted a 2.64 ERA last season.
The nine-year veteran with Milwaukee, Toronto and the Cubs has compiled a career 45-50 won-loss mark and a 4.26 ERA and could be well positioned to secure the last bullpen spot as the long reliever with St. Louis this spring. If so, it would likely bump the third left-hander off the initial 25-man roster, possibly including top prospect Marco Gonzales.
Even if Villanueva makes the big league roster, it would be unfair to expect him to mirror the success of last year’s comparable signing, Pat Neshek. The latter signed a similar deal on February 6, 2014, made the club out of spring training, became a National League All-Star and was arguably the team’s most consistent reliever before becoming a free agent this past fall.
If he is in the majors, Villanueva's salary this season will be $2 million, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
To see the entire Cardinals system by level and position, along with every transaction all year long, plus all free agents and their status, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.
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