The playoffs haven’t finished yet and for the first time in several years, we are already talking about what the Cardinals will look like next year.
There are several holes that need to be filled. John Mozeliak has said there will be three pitchers signed. The President Bill DeWitt has said there will be a payroll increase. Based on this everyone is expecting something like Aaron Nola, Sonny Gray, and some other pitcher that will make us all just giddy.
I tend to be a bit more skeptical. If you look at recent free agency signing periods the Cardinals have been linked to several top-level, game-changing free agents over the years and have come up short. John Mozeliak always seems to hit his ‘puke point’ and backs off.
Granted this year it seems the Cardinals will raise the point before Mo feels the need to puke but I’m afraid other teams will be raising theirs also.
Looking at just one team, the Dodgers, they will need to jump into the free-agent market in a big way. Kershaw thought about retiring this year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him gone. They brought in Lance Lynn to fill some holes but he has an option that may not be renewed. A really big piece of their rotation, Julio Urias is a huge question mark. Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Buehler will all be coming back from surgeries. Does anyone think that if the Dodgers decide they want Nola the Cardinals will outbid them? And even if they do offer more money would Nola (or any pitcher) choose the Cardinals over the Dodgers? By the way, I think Nola would be a great fit for the Dodgers.
The Cardinals have dug themselves a deep hole. Even stocking our minor leagues at the trade deadline, most of the scouts that have a good feel for prospects predict that it is more likely that they won’t be a major piece of the puzzle until 2025. And even if they reach ahead of schedule they slide into the middle level, not aces. If that is the case then would it even make sense for the Cardinals to bring in a Nola to St. Louis and waste his first year with them?
Would it make more sense to zig while others are zagging? It might be if they decide to skip the Nolas and Gays this year and look to 2025 and go after Gerritt Cole, Chris Sale, Zack Wheeler, or Tyler Glasnow, all of whom will be free agents. What if the Cardinals improve this year just enough to have a shot at the playoffs and then go all in next year?
Here are three players that the Cardinals could go after that aren’t on the top of everyone’s list.