3. The Cardinals have the trade assets and salary flexibility to make major pitching upgrades
Speaking of prospects and this winter, let me just list out some of the players the Cardinals could potentially move this offseason, not even including their young MLB position players like Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, and Tommy Edman.
Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson, Ivan Herrera, Tyler O'Neill, Thomas Saggese, Tink Hence, Tekoah Roby, Victor Scott II, Chase Davis, Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, Sem Robberse, Drew Rom, Adam Kloffenstein, Cesar Prieto, Luken Baker, and a whole lot more.
No, they should not trade all of those guys, and it would take a lot in return for me to think about moving Saggese, Hence, Roby, Scott II, Davis, or any of those core position players I listed. But they have the ammunition to make some big splashes or fill out the rest of their rotation with cost-controlled arms as well.
I do believe the Cardinals need to make their most significant moves through free agency this offseason, but they'll likely make some rotation and bullpen upgrades via trade as well.
Speaking of free agency, between Adam Wainwright, Drew VerHagen, and the already dealt away Montgomery, DeJong, Flaherty, and Hicks, the Cardinals have a lot of salary room from their 2022 budget to work with this offseason. Frankly, they really need to raise it even more as well, which they most certainly can, and then they'll have even more money to spend.
Between those names alone, the Cardinals could have as much as $50 million in salary flexibility opened up, as well as potentially freeing up space with a Tyler O'Neill, Tommy Edman, or other trades that remove salary from their books. That number could easily be $60-$65 million before even raising payroll.
Again, ownership has to be on board with this, but if they finally open up those pocketbooks, the Cardinals are well-positioned to make some splashes.