The Chicago Cubs made a big move during free agency, when they signed all-star pitcher Jon Lester to a six-year deal.
And now, a former Cardinal will be heading there as well.
32-year old pitcher Jason Motte, who became a free agent after the conclusion of the 2014 season, has signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Cubs, and will join the team, pending a physical.
The signing ends a 11-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
In the 19th round of the 2003 MLB Draft, the Cardinals selected Motte, interestingly enough, as a catcher (which is the primary position he played in high school and college). He struggled, however, to find any type of positive surge as a hitter, with batting averages of .222 in 2003, a mere .175 in 2004, and .176 in 2005.
While in Single-A Palm Beach during the 2005 season, Motte suffered a thumb fracture, and proceeded to hit .188 in 2006. Despite his lack of strong offensive stats, it was his defense behind the plate that stood out for scouts and fans alike. He had thrown out 49% of potential base-stealers, and had well-known throwing accuracy.
It was at this point when Motte became a pitcher, and made faster improvements as he worked his way up the Cardinals’ farm system all the way to Triple-A Memphis.
Motte made his major-league debut in 2008, pitching 11 innings in 12 games, with an ERA of 0.82. Batters had an average of only .139 against him in 2008.
Arguably he is best remembered for his role as the Cardinals closer from 2011-2012. He was on the mound to get the final outs of the historic 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers. In 2011, Motte went 5-2 with a 2.25 ERA, garnered nine saves out of 13 opportunities, and held opposing batters to a .202 average.
2012 was Motte’s career season. Despite having a record of 4-5, he earned 42 saves out of 49 chances (being the NL saves leader in the process), and he struck out 86 batters while only walking 17. He played a key role in the Cardinals making it to the NLCS, where they would fall to the eventual World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants.
Unfortunately, he could not get anything going in 2013. Not too long after signing a two-year deal, Motte was placed on the DL in March with a strained elbow injury. Things did not improve and on May 3rd, 2013, the Cardinals announced he would have season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair ligaments in his elbow. It was at this time Mike Matheny began trying to decide on a new closer, with Edward Mujica and later Trevor Rosenthal emerging as closing pitchers for the Cardinals.
Despite being injured, Motte was awarded the Daryl Kile Good Guy Award for his mentoring of younger pitchers, and for availing himself while recovering from surgery.
In what turned out to be his final season with the Cardinals, in 2014, Motte made his major-league return in late May, pitching 1 1/3 innings of relief. However, after a season in which he had a 4.68 ERA, 17 strikeouts and nine walks, he was left off of the Cardinals’ postseason roster. Once the season ended, he became a free agent.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Cubs have awarded incentives in the contract offered to Motte, notably for games finished. It is a low-risk, high-reward move by Chicago, as they now have a veteran reliever with a lot of talent, but all the while, they did not have to spend a lot to sign him.
His velocity has diminished, but despite that, there is still a lot of ability left in Jason Motte. Only time will tell how well he performs with Chicago.
Motte made a memorable impact in the few years he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. One thing is for sure: it will be interesting to see what happens when the Cubs come to the Gateway City…but then again, when isn’t it?
(Photo credit: UPI/Brian Kersey)