NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cardinals have found their left-handed reliever. And apparently it was the one they wanted all along.
A club official confirmed Wednesday evening that a three-year deal is in place with veteran left-handed reliever Randy Choate, pending the completion of a physical Friday in St. Louis. The deal will reportedly pay him a total of $7.5 million.
Choate, 37, was arguably the top left-handed specialist available this winter. He held left-handed hitters to just a .158 batting average last season and had a 3.03 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with the Marlins and Dodgers.
In 12 big league seasons, Choate has held left-handed batters to just a .201 batting average and .284 slugging percentage.
The Cardinals withheld comment on the signing until the completion of Friday’s physical.
Choate was seen as one of the top left-handed relievers on the market behind Sean Burnett, who signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Anaheim Angels a short time later. But the Cardinals were apparently more intrigued by Choate because of their need for a lefty specialist. Burnett faces both rights and lefts.
The veteran Choate is most effective when used strictly as a left-handed specialist. And with the Cardinals’ late-inning trio of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte all effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters, the need for someone like Burnett was much less.
The durable lefty led the league in appearances in two of the past three seasons, topping the National League with 80 appearances last year and leading the American League with 85 appearances while with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.
Choate broke into the big leagues in 2000 with the New York Yankees and has also pitched for the Diamondbacks, Rays, Marlins and Dodgers. He was a part of the trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers last summer.
He joins Marc Rzepczynski as the second lefty in the Cardinals bullpen.
The Winter Meetings end Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft. The Cardinals don’t expect to make any additional moves before leaving Nashville but would still like to add a veteran bat for their bench and middle infield depth in the near future.