3 tiers of starting pitchers the St. Louis Cardinals can target this offseason

The Cardinals want to add three starting pitchers this offseason. Here are targets that fill each "tier" of pitcher they need.

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Tier 2: Number two starter, high-end number three starter, or a high-upside young arm

Free agents: Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, Lucas Giolito, and Eduardo Rodriguez

Trade: Edward Cabrera, Jesus Luzardo, and Trevor Rogers

Unlikely: Marcus Stroman, Bryan Woo, and Bryce Miller

What's that? It's the sound of the Sonny Gray hype train, and I'd like a front-row seat on this one.

Not only does Sonny Gray *scream* St. Louis Cardinal, I think he's my favorite fit for them from any of these tiers. Gray is one of the more underrated pitchers in today's game and would bring the combination of run prevention and strikeout stuff that the Cardinals need from their number-two starter next year.

This year, Gray has a 3.04 ERA in 136.1 innings for the Minnesota Twins, and his FIP is even better at 2.78. He's had only a few down years in his entire career, as over the course of his 11-year career, his ERA sits at 3.52. This year, he is striking out 9.2 batters per nine innings and is one of those pitchers who has a bulldog mentality on the mound.

Off the field, Gray talked about at the All-Star Game this year that he's already begun to have thoughts about retiring from baseball, desiring to be closer to home (Nashville, TN) so he can spend more time with his family. Gray still made it sound very unlikely that he'd retire, but it's clear that proximity to home will play a major factor in where he chooses to play baseball next year.

The only two teams in baseball that are closer to Nashville than the Cardinals are the Reds and the Braves. I could see both teams making a run at Gray, but I strongly believe the Cardinals should be at the front of that bidding war. My guess is he gets somewhere around 3 years, $60 million in free agency.

Outside of Gray, a reunion with Montgomery or someone like Giolito would make a lot of sense for St. Louis. Neither guy would cost them a compensation pick, but they likely require more years, and dollars per year, than Gray would for St. Louis. Eduardo Rodriguez is in the same class as those two but would likely cost them a compensation pick. If the Cardinals do sign Nola or Snell, it will be interesting to see if they stray away from a guy in this range with a qualifying offer attached since they'd already be losing a draft pick with that first signing.

The tier two trade candidates are interesting to me, as I don't really see any of those guys as number two starters right now (maybe number threes) but they likely cost more in terms of trade value because of their age, upside, and that they are cost controlled. All of them come from the Marlins, as the Cardinals have natural trade candidates (Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Ivan Herrera) that could interest them.

The other interesting thing about this group of trade candidates is that St. Louis could end up signing a player from tier 2 and trading for one of those guys as well to fill that "third starter" target. With the number of young position players the Cardinals have, they are bound to use a few of them to get a cost-controlled starter of some stature.

In the unlikely category, the Cardinals seemed uninterested in Marcus Stroman last time he was a free agent, and any time I hear someone report about him and the Cardinals, they seem to agree that it is not a fit. Bryan Woo and Bryce Miller also seem unlikely to be dealt, as it appears the Mariners will look to upgrade their offense through free agency rather than having to deal from their pitching depth.