The Cardinals should non-tender Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford
On top of not having enough quality arms in their projected Opening Day rotation for 2023, Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford both proved that the Cardinals also did not have quality depth options internally either.
Hudson was infamously part of that "We have six starting pitchers" comment from John Mozeliak last offseason, but quickly pitched his way out of that conversation. He spent most of 2024 struggling in Triple-A with Memphis, and in his 18 games with St. Louis (12 starts), he posted a 4.98 ERA and 5.06 FIP in 81.1 innings of work.
If Hudson was a pre-arbitration player, you'd probably look to keep him around as a depth option and see if he can figure things out over the winter. But with a projected salary of $3.7 million for 2024, there's just no way to justify him sticking around. He'll have no problem finding a contract with another Major League club, whether it's guaranteed or a minor league deal, but that just cannot happen in St. Louis.
The same thing can be said for Jake Woodford. His number is more manageable, at just $1.1 million for 2024, but he, much like Hudson, struggled to prove he belonged during his opportunites with St. Louis this past season. In 47.2 innings, Woodford had a 6.23 ERA and 6.61 FIP, not exactly a resume builder by any means. If the Cardinals were desperate for depth, maybe they consider it, but they are actually in a better position when it comes to immediate pitching depth than they were at the beginning of 2023.
Zack Thompson, Matthew Liberatore, and Drew Rom are all immediate options who have experinece starting games at the Major League level and are much cheaper than Hudson and Woodford. They also have guys like Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Adam Kloffenstein, and Sem Robberse knocking on the door in Triple-A, so it's time to move on from arms like Woodford and Hudson who just are not taking advantage of their opportunities in St. Louis.
Look for Zack Thompson to be the first man up in 2024 if an injury happens to the rotation, and he could even push for a rotation spot over Steven Matz in Spring Training. He looked promising as a starter during his nine opportunities last year, and given an offseason of work, he may be able to push harder for a spot than we are currently anticipating.