On the field, the recent promotion of top prospect Masyn Winn is the biggest storyline the Cardinals have for the remainder of the season. Off the field, their pursuit of starting pitching help is the first, second, and third biggest storylines facing the club between now and Spring Training.
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has already set the bar at three starting pitchers being the need for the club as they look ahead to 2024. They will certainly look at adding some bullpen help as well, and may even explore the addition of a stopgap center fielder, but their top priority is filling those three rotation spots.
Everyone knows the Cardinals need three starting pitchers, but what mix of three starting pitchers do the Cardinals realistically need? If you're ideal offseason is adding two of Aaron Nola, Julia Urias, or Blake Snell and trading for Dylan Cease, that is not only unrealistic for how the Cardinals run their organization, but it's also not really the wise way to go about fixing their rotation either.
Unless you're the Dodgers, Mets, or Yankees, you can't just hand out multiple $200 million+ deals to starting pitchers to fix your issues, and even when they go about paying those guys, it oftentimes does not go as well as you'd expect. Clubs need a good mix of veteran starters and young studs, and can only really afford to pay one guy that ace-level money. Otherwise, you need to fill out the rest of that rotation with cost-controlled arms, dependable back-of-the-rotation starters, and mid-tier starters who have the upside to be more than what they are being paid.
I have gone ahead and made three different tiers of starting pitchers that represent the three kinds of starters the Cardinals need to go after this offseason.
Tier 1: Ace-level starting pitching
Tier 2: Number two starter, high-end number three starter, or a high-upside young arm
Tier 3: Back-of-the-rotation starters or pitchers looking for "prove-it" deals
Within each tier, I have listed out both free agent and trade targets that I could see the Cardinals going after, as well as a few names who could fit within that tier, but for one reason or another, I find it unlikely that the Cardinals would go after that starting pitcher.
If the Cardinals are able to grab one starting pitcher from each tier this offseason through free agency or trade, then I think they would have truly rebuilt their rotation in a way that not only puts them back into playoff contention in 2024 but actually gives them a shot to go deep into the playoffs as well.