Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. It's the theme of the St. Louis Cardinals offseason, and rightfully so. The club had high aspirations entering the 2023 season, and while so many things have gone wrong along the way, the central issue of this roster is how bad the pitching has been.
I'd actually contend that the club's other issues could be left untouched and would organically improve if the club's pitching is stabilized. When you look at the offense, there are so many pieces that make up an elite lineup, and yet, they seem to freeze when it counts. It's not even speculation to say that the offense is pressing at the plate each game knowing that they likely need to put up a big number to even have a chance to win.
The defense has seen noticeable regression as well, and some of this is for sure talent-related. Jordan Walker is a major project out in right field defensively. Alec Burleson isn't a bad defender, but he's a major step down from Tyler O'Neill in left field. So is the transition from Harrison Bader in center field to guys like Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, and Tommy Edman.
And yet, there are plenty of reasons to feel better about it for next year. Nolan Arenado had a bad first half defensively and has looked back to himself since the second half began. Nolan Gorman has taken major strides defensively at second base. Masyn Winn has arrived and can be a game-changer defensively at shortstop. Walker has been improving as of late and will have an offseason of work in the outfield ahead of him.
The offense and defense could use some subtle tweaks, but for the most part, all the pieces are in place. You can't say the same thing about this pitching staff, which is why it'll take a major offseason overhaul to rebuild this rotation and bullpen. John Mozeliak has been very clear that the Cardinals will be targeting three starting pitchers as a part of that transformation.
I've already looked at the tiers of pitching that the Cardinals can target for their rotation rehaul, but one question we haven't addressed yet is whether or not three is the correct number for St. Louis. There are real pros and cons to targeting that many starting pitchers in one offseason that not only impact what the rotation will look like but also the rest of the team.