LOS ANGELES • The market for free-agent reliever Trevor Rosenthal could move swiftly after the World Series based on the interest generated from his recent workout for scouts.
About 40 scouts attended Rosenthal’s 36-pitch showcase in the Los Angeles area, and they saw the Cardinals’ former All-Star closer touch 98 mph with his fastball and sit in the high 80s with his slider and changeup.
Rosenthal, a back-to-back 40-save reliever for the Cardinals, missed all of the 2018 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals declined to offer the 28-year-old a contract for that season, and he has been a free agent since.
The Cardinals had a scout attend Rosenthal’s workout, and they have been aware of his recovery, a lot of which has taken place in St. Louis. They are not, however, an aggressive pursuer of the righthander, who will attract interest from teams like the Cubs, Nationals, Red Sox and others in need of late-inning answers.
The contract model Rosenthal is likely to follow was the one Greg Holland received that had a one-year guarantee and an opt-out after 2019.
BEST OF THE MULTI-YEAR STANDOUTS
When newly-signed relief pitcher Greg Holland finally makes his way to the ninth inning, the Cardinals will have another in a line of distinguished closers.
In the 40-plus years I’ve covered the Cardinals, the franchise has had more than its share of top-shelf ninth-inning men.
First, here are the multi-year stars of the ninth inning:
1. JASON ISRINGHAUSEN (2002-08)
COMMISH'S TAKE: “Izzy” is the club’s leader in saves at 217, with his best year 47 in 2004. But he never got to stand on the mound for the final out of the World Series because he was hurt in September 2006. That honor went to rookie Adam Wainwright.
2. LEE SMITH (1990-93)
COMMISH'S TAKE: The “Big Man” had a then club-high 47 saves in 1991 and is second in club annals with 160 total saves. But none of those was achieved in the postseason because the Cardinals weren’t in the playoffs during his tenure. He will have a chance to be voted a Hall of Famer by a veterans’ committee this year.
3. BRUCE SUTTER (1981-84)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Sutter, another former Cubs relief ace, got the last out of the 1982 World Series when he struck out Milwaukee's Gorman Thomas with an uncharacteristic high fastball. The leading split-fingered practitioner of his time, Sutter often earned saves of four outs or more. A Hall of Famer in 2006.
4. TREVOR ROSENTHAL (2014-17)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Holds the club single-season record for saves at 48 in 2015 and also had a 45-save season the year before. Could have been the best in Cardinals history but wasn’t re-signed after he had Tommy John elbow surgery last year. Often topping out at near 100 miles an hour, Rosenthal still is only 27 years old.
5. TODD WORRELL (1985-92)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Probably would have recorded the last out of the 1985 World Series as a rookie if first-base umpire Don Denkinger had made the proper call after Worrell touched the first-base bag well ahead of Kansas City baserunner Jorge Orta. Arm problems cost Worrell some career numbers here but, after he recovered, he teamed with Smith for a lights-out bullpen in 1992. The only problem that year was the offense.
6. AL HRABOSKY (1974-77)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Saves weren’t as easy to come by in the 1970s but "The Mad Hungarian" always made them exciting, from the moment he strode off the mound, turned his back on home plate and then came back onto the mound pounding his first into his glove. "Hungo" made his mark in a nationally televised game on May 9, 1977 when he loaded the bases full of Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning of a tie game and then struck out George Foster, Johnny Bench and Bob Bailey.
7. DENNIS ECKERSLEY (1996-97)
COMMISH'S TAKE: The future Hall of Famer made St. Louis one of his last stops in an estimable career punctuated by several spectacular years in Oakland. “Eck” had 66 saves in two seasons here and, forever will be remembered for coining the phrase “walk-off” homer, meaning he had allowed it and was walking off the mound while everyone else on the other team was going crazy.
8. RYAN FRANKLIN (2008-10)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Franklin took over when Isringhausen was hurt in 2008 and compiled 82 saves over the next three seasons. Ironically, he lost his closer’s role in 2011 and was released in June but still is considered a member of that year’s World Series championship club. He is a special assistant to the general manager.
AND NOW, THE ONE-YEAR WONDERS
Longtime Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright is among the one-year wonders as a closer that Rick Hummel has covered in 40-plus seasons as a Post-Dispatch baseball writer.
Here's a quick look at Waino and the others:
1. TOM HENKE (1995)
COMMISH'S TAKE: In his only season with the club, he won the Relief Man of the Year award with 36 saves in 38 chances and a 1.82 earned-run average, best of his career. The Missouri native had two tours with Texas and one with Toronto and retired on top at age 37.
2. JASON MOTTE (2012)
COMMISH'S TAKE: When Franklin and others faltered in 2011, Motte took over as closer late in that magical season before winning the saves title with 42 in 2012. Then he hurt his arm and was done as a closer. He was in camp this spring but was let go.
3. EDWARD MUJICA (2013)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Before he wearied in 2013, the “Chief” knocked off 37 saves as he helped the Cardinals get to the World Series. Rosenthal replaced Mujica as the closer down the stretch and Mujica bounced to Boston and Oakland before turning up at Jupiter, Fla., this spring as a minor-league pitcher. He pitched in a few Grapefruit League games and now is at Memphis.
4. DAVE VERES (2000)
COMMISH'S TAKE: The righthander actually had two years as a Cardinals late-inning man but by far his best was in 2000, when he had 29 saves for the Central Division champions. In 2001, he had 15 saves and was on the mound in the ninth inning, along with Steve Kline, when the Cardinals lost Game 5 of the division series at Arizona.
5. ADAM WAINWRIGHT (2006)
COMMISH'S TAKE: More like one-month wonder. Wainwright, who became a ninth-inning man when Isringhausen went down in September 2006, actually had more saves in that postseason (four) than he had in the season (three). He threw the most famous curveball in Cardinals history past Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end Game 7 of the league championship series.
6. SEUNG HWAN OH (2016)
COMMISH'S TAKE: Signed as a setup man, the Korean visitor was a mystery to National League hitters in his first year and assumed the closer’s job from an injured Rosenthal in 2016. He didn’t let it go, posting 19 saves, a 1.92 ERA and striking out 103 in 79 2/3 innings. Although he had a staff-leading 20 saves, Oh was not quite so mysterious the next year and now is with Toronto.