The National League Central division continues to stay active (relatively speaking) this offseason as the St. Louis Cardinals have bolstered their bullpen by adding veteran right-hander Bud Norris.
Norris, 32, spent last season with the Los Angeles Angels, where he appeared in 60 games, 57 of which were in a relief role. He recorded an ERA of 4.21 and struck out 74 batters in 62 innings pitched. Having converted to a relief pitcher full-time, Norris now gives the Cardinals a powerful right-handed option out of the bullpen. Norris has always been a hard thrower, and according to FanGraphs he maintained a consistent fastball velocity around the 94-95 MPH range last season.
Norris also proved his capability as a late-inning performer when he filled in as the Angels closer to start the 2017 season. He notched 19 saves in 23 opportunities and, more impressively, held opposing hitters to a paltry .183 average in the first half of the season while maintaining a 2.23 ERA. Norris struggled in the second half of the season, posting a ghastly 7.01 ERA in just 25.2 innings pitched. However, that was largely due to a nagging knee injury that eventually sidelined him towards the end of the season.
The Cardinals are banking on a healthy return to form for Norris, who is now a strong candidate to become the eighth-inning setup man in St. Louis for their closer, Luke Gregerson. A healthy Norris, combined with the newly acquired Dominic Leone and the ever-consistent Gregerson, could make for a formidable Cardinals bullpen.