While it appears likely that Lance Lynn will receive at least a qualifying offer and Juan Nicasio will be entertained to return to the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, the future is not as clear for Seung Hwan Oh.
The first to admit 2017 was a disappointing year, Oh would like to return for a third season in St. Louis.
“The best situation for me would to be with the same team next year,” he confirmed before packing up his locker. “I want to show that next year is going to be better compared to this year. That would be the best situation.”
Along with Lynn, Nicasio, and Zach Duke the 35-year old Oh became a free agent this morning as MLB officially moves into the business of the off-season.
“A lot of things didn’t work this year as I wanted them to,” said Oh. “I’m going to go back and do a lot of thinking about that. Next time I come back, I want to make those better.”
In 2017, Oh made 62 appearances out of the bullpen for St. Louis. Added with his workload from the three seasons prior, he’s appeared in 265 games. That doesn’t include the additional times he’s warmed up to not be used or multiple times before entering a game. That can add up.
“Maybe it was fatigue in my overall body over the last few years,” admitted Oh. “The reason why I kept pushing through, even through these difficult times, is because I’m not trying to just fix something right now–I’m trying to look a couple years after this too.”
In an effort to help accomplish that goal, Oh is planning to “revamp” his body this off-season.
“What a special guy he is,” said Mike Matheny during the final homestand. “I can’t tell you how many times he’s apologized to me. And he’s apologized to different people throughout the organization about ‘I’m sorry that I wasn’t better’. Part of that’s cultural, right?. But I think a larger part is the guy that he is and the expectation that he puts himself up to. He’s got nothing to apologize for. This is a tough league and he made it look really easy last year and was so good. He’s a good pitcher and I know when everything’s right, he’s better than what he showed this year–and he knows that too.”
“I personally wanted to apologize because I wasn’t showing as much as expected and felt bad for the team,” explained Oh. “The response back all the time, including from Matheny, was they understood I was trying to do my best and keep doing it. They said this isn’t going to be the end and I’m going to come back better next year as a result.”
“He was just so good last year and you take age, everything–usage into the equation,” continued Matheny. “You don’t go from where he was last year to where he was this year and say, no the league just learned him. They learned him by the All-Star break last year. They knew everything they needed to know and they still had trouble with him. There was a crispness, especially with his secondary pitches, that was missing this year. He’ll find it. I’m confident of that.”
The Cardinals exercised the $2.75 million option on Oh last year and based upon last year’s numbers he wouldn’t likely be able to command significantly more than that this offseason. For now, pitching depth is a strength of the Cardinals as they have young arms in the system and Trevor Rosenthal is expected to make a full recovery from Tommy John surgery. Pending Nicasio being brought back, the two could form the combination envisioned for 2017 with Rosenthal and Oh.
But as trades and other moves happen in the coming weeks, you never know. So whether it’s in St. Louis, with another team–or even back in Japan, Seung Hwan Oh wasn’t ruling anything out.
“All windows are open right now,” stated Oh. “The most important thing is to keep playing baseball next year.”
photo credit: Steve Mitchell, Jeff Curry, Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports