Cardinals close to signing RHP Keynan Middleton, per source: How he fits into St. Louis' game

The St. Louis Cardinals are close to signing free agent right-hander Keenan Middleton, a league source has confirmed. The athlete. Robert Murray of Fansides first reported the news. The deal is awaiting physical.

Middleton, 30, pitched for the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees in 2023, making 51 combined appearances and recording a 3.38 ERA over 50 2/3 innings. He posted a strikeout rate of 11.4 per nine innings last season, the highest mark of his seven-year major league career.

How Middleton fits into the bullpen

Reworking baseball was a top priority for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. Even after adding Andrew Kittredge and Nick Robertson and taking a chance on Ryan Fernandez in the Rule 5 draft, Mozeliak repeatedly stated throughout January that he plans to continue monitoring the free-agent relief market.

Middleton ticks two boxes for the Cardinals. His 30.2 percent strikeout rate ranked in the 91st percentile for MLB last year, with his whiff percentage (36 percent) ranking higher in the 96th percentile. St. Louis has actively discussed enhancing swing and miss in their bullpen, and Middleton's new found success In that regard it made him a logical target.

Mozeliak also identified pitchers with experience in various relief roles, as the Cardinals hope to carry a versatile bullpen this year. Middleton fits this narrative too. -Katie Wu, Cardinals beat writer

What does the Cardinals game look like?

Middleton's numbers will be the final addition to the playing field before pitchers and catchers report on February 14. As currently constructed, St. Louis will look to structure its bullpen with Ryan Helsley as the closer and Giovanny Gallegos as the setup man, although manager Ollie Marmol will often use Helsley at the highest leverage point in the game, regardless of the inning.

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Middleton should get high-leverage opportunities alongside Helsley and Gallegos. The club also is high on left-hander Jojo Romero, who could receive interest in the later innings, especially with a strong showing in the spring. Kittredge, Robertson and John King are likely to cover the middle roles, with Andre Pallant and Fernandes vying for the final spot. — Wu

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(Photo: Rich Graysle/Ikon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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