Cardinals closer Carlos Martinez
Feb 29, 2020; Jupiter, Florida, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Carlos Martinez (18) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks has enthralled legions of MLB fans. From his 104 mph sinker to a 103 mph fastball with incredible movement, Hicks was the next great flame-thrower. However, because of COVID-19, Hicks has opted out of the 2020 MLB season.

The big picture: With Hicks missing the 2020 MLB season because of his pre-existing condition, who should close games for the St. Louis Cardinals?

Jordan Hicks not playing for the St. Louis Cardinals

After pitching in 29 games in 2019, Hicks was shut down after having Tommy John Surgery. The hard-throwing right hander was slated to be a fixture in the All-Star game before the injury.

Though the Cardinals were excited to see Hicks on the mound in 2020, the team will have to wait until 2021. On July 13, Hicks announced that he would be missing the entirety of the 2020 season as a safety precaution.

Hicks has Type 1 Diabetes. He discovered he had diabetes in his junior year of high school. In some instances, Hicks had to inject insulin during games. It’s also important to note that having diabetes could potentially cause COVID-19 complications to be fatal.

With Hicks opting out of the 2020 MLB season, the Cardinals have options to choose from to replace Hicks. Although his replacement may not have the 100-plus mph slider and fastball combination, each of the pitchers featured below can fill in.

Who should replace Hicks as the Cardinals’ closer?

Perhaps one of the Cardinals’ strengths coming into the season was their pitching depth. Be it from the bullpen or starting rotation, the Cardinals have a few reliable arms that could start or come in relief.

That said, here are a few names that could take Hicks’ place as the Cardinals closer:

  • Carlos Martinez: A relief pitcher-converted-starter, Martinez was the Cardinals’ ace a few seasons ago. But after having a few command and injury issues, Martinez found himself back as the Cardinals closer in 2019. He had 24 saves and had a 3.17 ERA in 48 games.
  • Kwang-Hyun Kim: A lefty from the KBO, Kim could feasibly be the Cardinals’ closer. When he first signed, Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak said that Kim’s role is undefined. Expect Kim to perform as his career 3.27 ERA in 298 games (276 starts) in Korea can attest.
  • Alex Reyes: A highly-touted prospect, Reyes hasn’t lived up to expectations. Initially slated to be the Cardinals future ace, injuries have been a big factor in Reyes’ lack of progression. Amassing a 2.21 ERA, Reyes has only played in 17 games (six starts) in his three years in the majors.
  • Giovanny Gallegos: Originally just a throw-in piece in the Luke Voit trade, Gallegos showed out for the Cardinals. After playing 22 combined games in 2017 and 2018, Gallegos pitched in 66 games for the Cardinals in 2019. He had a 2.31 ERA and one save for the Cardinals in 2019. When he will rejoin the club remains to be seen, however.
  • Andrew Miller: The former ALCS MVP isn’t the player he used to be as injuries caught up to him. Only two years removed from the 1.44 ERA he posted in Cleveland, the 35-year-old Miller has been hovering around 4.30 ERA. Nevertheless with 59 saves – the most of the Cardinals – Miller could see a resurgence as the Cardinals closer.

A bonus closer pick: Adam Wainwright

The 39-year-old Wainwright is no longer the Cy Young-caliber pitcher that he once was. However, he’s still a solid starter when called upon as he posted a 4.19 ERA in 31 games in 2019. He went 14-10 in those starts as well.

For his career, Wainwright has a 3.39 ERA, both coming out of the bullpen and as a starter. Although he has been a starter for the past 12 years, Wainwright was a reliever early in his Cardinals career. Most notably, he struck out Carlos Beltran in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS to help the Cardinals reach the World Series.

If the Cardinals are looking to throw a massive curveball – no pun intended – then Wainwright is an option.

The Bottom Line: Carlos Martinez should be the Cardinals’ closer

By all accounts, each of the aforementioned players are good choices to be the Cardinals’ closer.

Kim is in his first year in MLB and is projected to be the Cardinals’ lone lefty in the rotation. Meanwhile, Gallegos and Miller are solid relievers. With John Brebbia out for the season, the Cardinals need Gallegos and Miller’s steady arms to hold down the fort. Regarding Reyes, slotting him in as the closer might help. But considering his erratic play, it’s best to ease him into competition.

Even though Miller has the most saves and has postseason experience, Martinez was effective as the closer in 2019. He needs to work on fine-tuning his command but he’s more than capable of getting hitters out when needed. That’s why Martinez should be the Cardinals closer in 2020.

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A multi-award winning, up-and-coming sports journalist in Southern California, I am a big fan of the Golden State Warriors, St. Louis Cardinals (go figure) and anything pertaining to Long Beach State.