The arms that fall into tier 2 are going to cost the Cardinals more on the open market, but are more of "sure things" when it comes to talent and expected production. These guys should slot into the late game mix with no problem.
The Cardinals remain interested in a reunion with their former fireballer, and Hicks could really help strengthen their bullpen mix if they could sign him.
Up until this point, almost every name on this list would get a one-year deal south of $10 million. For Hicks, he could get three or more years with an AAV north of $10 million. He's ready to cash in.
Hick's stuff is insanely good, and he finally put it all together over the summer for St. Louis and continued his run with Toronto after the trade deadline. He would be an excellent addition if the Cardinals can make a deal happen.
Phil Maton has been heavily linked to the Cardinals this offseason, and would provide them with a rising bullpen arm who is just 30 years old. After being mostly average for much of his career, he posted a 3.00 ERA in 66 innings while striking out 10.1 batters per nine innings in 2023.
Doing this for the Astros the last three years shows he has what it takes to pitch in big games, and is someone the Cardinals could very well add to their mix in the coming days and weeks.
The left-handed closer from Japan, Yuki Matsui has been linked to the Cardinals at various times and would represent an excellent left-handed option for the back of their bullpen alongside JoJo Romero, Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson, and John King.
Matsui is the quickest player in Japanese history to reach 300 career saves, and his stuff will translate to the big leagues. He'll likely require a multi-year agreement to get a deal done, which is risky (as it is with all relievers), but is a risk that fels reasonable to take.
I am a bit skeptical about Matsui's fit lately, as I think the Cardinals have a lot of left-handed options right now, and outside of Helsley and Gallegos, they lack clarity from the right-side out of their bullpen.
We've already had two Astros on this list, how about a third?
Hector Neris had a career year in 2023, posting a 1.71 ERA in 68.1 innings of work while striking out 10.1 batters per nine as well. He's been very dependable throughout his career, posting a 3.24 ERA in ten big league seasons.
Neris will turn 35 during the season, so age is a real concern, but it's not something that should derail a pursuit on a one-year deal.