The St. Louis Cardinals are in a tricky spot when it comes to starting pitching in 2023, as they do have more than enough “capable” starters to fill out the rotation and then some.
However, it’s a well known fact that 4/5 of the current rotation is on their last season under contract. So could the Cardinals benefit by going ahead and acquiring an arm this offseason?
You would think that if the Cardinals had that interest, that they would have attempted to re-sign Jose Quintana (who they acquired at last year’s trade deadline). Quintana went 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA for St. Louis in 12 starts, pitched well in his outing for them in the playoffs, and while he is entering his age 34 season, he recently signed a 2-yr $26M deal with the New York Mets.
That seems like what could have been a low-risk/high reward signing for the Cardinals, but I think the front office prioritizing getting a catcher let Quintana slip away. Ironic in a way, given that not only did Quintana express interest in returning to St. Louis, but he also had a lot of kind words about the organization when Willson Contreras enquired about the club. At an AAV of $13M, Quintana could have been right in the Cardinals price point even after signing Contreras. But, what’s done is done.
When asked about the starting rotation and possibly addressing next season’s need this off-season, John Mozeliak is quoted by Derrick Goold as saying…
“I think you would feel a little more confident by doing something,” Mozeliak said. “If we don’t, we’ll be OK, I think. But one of the things we’ve done with the roster is to almost have perpetual churn. Now, where it’s five guys you have to replace? Or four? We’re cognizant of it.”
I don’t know about anyone else reading this, but that doesn’t scream confidence in my opinion. There’s a difference in “thinking the team will be ok”, and feeling optimistic that it will be.
The Cardinals don’t just have most of their rotation on last season deals, but it seems there’s always an injury that shuts someone down (especially to start the season.) And while I’m not suggesting Mozeliak be some fortune teller to see that as a guarantee heading into next season, why not go land another starter to strengthen the current rotation?
In doing so, the Cardinals could slide both Steven Matz AND Dakota Hudson into the bullpen, and go with a rotation of Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery and (insert free agent pitcher here).
While I’d love to tell you the Cardinals would be in on the likes of a Carlos Rodon, I don’t see that happening regardless of Jon Heyman claiming St. Louis to be a “mystery team” for his services. Both the dollar amount and number of years projected, I think surpasses Mozeliak’s “comfort zone”.
I know the Cardinals might have been reluctant to go after pitchers like Tyler Anderson and Chris Bassitt who had qualifying offers attached, and I can (maybe) see where they didn’t want to go the route of 4-year deals for a Taijuan Walker or Jameson Tailon for AAV’s of $18M & $17M respectively for the Phillies & Cubs.
But when I see pitchers like Jose Quintana signing a 2-year $26M deal with the Mets and fellow lefty starter Sean Manaea recently signing a 2-year $25M deal with the Giants, I can’t help but think the Cardinals don’t have plans to add to their rotation.
There’s the chance that St. Louis tries extending Miles Mikolas for another season or two, and they could do the same for Jordan Montgomery. However I think they have a very slim to none chance coming up with anything that prevents Jack Flaherty from testing the market at season’s end. So while there is concern about the rotation beyond 2023, I think the Cardinals aren’t in panic mode about it. They may be quietly enquiring about pitching through the form of trade this offseason or may do the usual in waiting to see where the team is at the trade deadline to address a need.
(As of today), Aside from Carlos Rodon, notable remaining starters on the free agent market would be Nathan Eovaldi, Noah Syndergaard, Ross Stripling, Corey Kluber and Michael Wacha.
How confident are you with the arms the Cardinals currently gave heading into 2023? Are there pitchers who have signed that you feel they missed out on? Do you think they should explore the trade market for a pitcher? Or lastly, do any of the remaining free agent names peak any interest?
Let me know in the comments. As always thanks for reading and Go Cards!