Baseball is always changing, and one of the most recent changes to the sport has been the ever growing importance of the reliever. The Cardinals have had a multitude of great relievers over the last 10 years or so, but which are the top 10 of the last decade.
Relievers who were great with other teams and performed poorly with the Cardinals will not be counted, only relievers that were great with the Cardinals.
Some honorable mentions considered were Giovanny Gallegos, Matt Bowman and Fernando Salas.
Hicks burst onto the scene in 2018 as one of the hardest throwers the league has ever seen come out of a bullpen. Consistently hitting 100 miles per hour, and then adding in movement on his sinker, Hicks has been nearly unhittable since his first appearance in the league. This is even more impressive noting that Hicks has not pitched above the Class A level in the minors. Hicks is currently out with Tommy John Surgery, but the 23 year old Cardinal closer should continue to move up the rankings amongst Cardinal relievers of all time.
Brebbia fits a standard for Cardinal players. He was acquired out of the minor league Rule 5 draft, and even pitched in an independent league prior to joining the Cardinals organization. However, once he was called up to the big leagues, the bearded Brebbia never looked back. Brebbia owns a 3.14 ERA with a 3.39 FIP since 2017, and holds very consistent strikeout numbers. Brebbia, soon to be 30, has three more years of team control, and barring any drastic change, should sit in the Cardinals bullpen as a reliable setup man for years to come.
Neshek’s Cardinal career was short lived, but what it was not short on, was dominance. The submarine reliever signed a minor league contract with the Cardinals in 2014, and absolutely tore through the league that season. Neshek owned a 1.87 ERA over 71 games, which was good for an ERA+ of 195, nearly double the league average. He carried a FIP of 2.25, and put up a K/9 of nearly 10. While he was only here for one season, Neshek’s sheer dominance makes him an easy choice for a top 10 relievers list.
Choate had an interesting Cardinals career. It spanned three seasons, but while he was never injured, he only pitched 98 innings. Choate was the last truly dominant left handed reliever the Cardinals possesed out of their bullpen. The left handed sidearm was used purely to get southpaws out, and once he did so, he was removed from the game. Signed in 2012, the then 37 year old lived out his three year contract carrying a 3.56 ERA with a FIP that was slightly lower, at 3.24. His last moments as a Cardinal were not as pretty, throwing a ball away to give the Giants a key win in the 2015 NLCS, but his total numbers in St. Louis were hard to look beyond. Choate retired after his stint with the Cardinals,
Oh was not like any other on this list. He was signed out of Korea as a 33 year old rookie, and most fans only knew one thing about him, and that was his nickname, The Stone Buddha. Oh’s rookie year, 2016, was a pure showing of dominance. He appeared in 76 games, pitching 79.1 innings, striking out 103 batters, and allowing only 17 runs. That comes out to an ERA of 1.92, and a FIP that was not much higher at 2.13. Oh was 112% better than the average pitcher in 2016. His 2017 was not quite as strong, where he pitched to a 4.10 ERA and had a homerun problem, but with his pure dominance in 2016, his spot on this list is very deserving. After his departure from St. Louis, Oh pitched with the Blue Jays and Rockies before returning home to Korea to pitch in the KBO.
Maness was very under the radar during his Cardinals tenure from 2013-16. Maness owned a 3.19 ERA over that time, with a 3.55 FIP. He was never truly dominant like some others on this list, but he held a very consistent level of play for a long time, as far as relievers go. He pitched a total of 237 innings out of the Cardinals bullpen, mainly to get ground balls in key situations. However, in 2016, Maness tore his UCL, but chose to have a work around surgery instead of Tommy John, which truly threw off the rest of his career. His role as a ground ball specialist was taken over by Matt Bowman, and Maness was claimed off waivers by the Royals, where he played 8 games and then disappeared in the abyss that is minor league baseball.
Mujica played a total of 94 games with the Cardinals over a year and a half, and like any before him on this list, he was dominant with the Cardinals in that short amount of time. Acquired from the Marlins at the 2012 trade deadline, Mujica dealt a 1.03 ERA with a 2.34 FIP in 29 games. When the Cardinals brought him back in 2013, he continued right where he left off. Mujica appeared in 65 games, and notched 37 saves. He led the bullpen into the World Series that year, and departed via free agency after the Cardinals elimination. Mujica seemingly fell off as soon as he burst onto the scene, bouncing around with Boston, Oakland and Detroit after St. Louis, but never dominating like he did with the Cardinals. The Cardinals re-signed him in 2018, but he never appeared in the big leagues, and retired soon after.
Siegrist’ Cardinals career was truly odd. He was known as the left handed reliever who pitched from the right side of the pitching rubber. His rookie season was one of the best a reliever has ever produced, with a miniscule ERA of 0.45 over 40 innings pitched. His 2014 was much rougher, with an ERA north of 6, but his advanced stats from that season say otherwise. He had a run from 2015 to 2016 where he never put up an ERA above 2.80, and was looking like one of the best relievers in baseball heading into 2017. However, Siegrist had an ERA of nearly 5 that season, and the Cardinals moved on from the then 27 year old. He was traded to the Phillies then after, pitched in seven games, and then was never seen again. Siegrist’s case was truly rare, as not many young relievers with dominant stats in their young careers disappear that quickly.
Motte will always hold a special place in Cardinals history, and for good reason. Not only did he close out the magical World Series run the Cardinals had in 2011, but from 2010 to 2014, he was a truly dominant reliever. Motte carried an ERA of 2.69 over 217 innings in that time, and that included a year in 2013 where he did not pitch due to injury. He was never an allstar, and never notched many saves, but his stellar numbers, added to what he had done for the city of St. Louis off the field with his Strikeout Cancer group, and closing out the 2011 World Series will forever notch Motte as one of the best relievers in recent Cardinal history. After his Cardinal tenure, he bounced around between Colorado, Chicago and Atlanta, before returning to St. Louis in 2018 and then calling it quits during Spring Training.
Finally, number one, Trevor Rosenthal.
Rosenthal had one of the most amazing runs as a reliever in Cardinal history. From 2012 to 2017, he was nearly unhittable. He carried an ERA of 2.99 and a FIP that was much lower, at 2.60. He raced up the rankings on the Cardinals all time save leaderboard, notching 121 over his six years here. He also notched 435 strikeouts over that time. His best year by far was 2015, where his ERA was a career low 2.10, with 48 saves, which earned him an all star nod and a few league MVP votes. At the end of the 2017 season, Rosenthal needed Tommy John Surgery, and was let go by the Cardinals. He remained unsigned until his recovery in 2019, and signed with the Washington Nationals. He had major control issues and was never quite the same pitcher. He was then released, signed with the Tigers, and possesed much of the same issues. He spent the rest of the season in the minor leagues and signed on with his hometown Kansas City Royals for 2020.