5 paths for the Cardinals to acquire their ace (and when to pivot from each)

The Cardinals have backed themselves into a corner with their pursuit of a top-end starter. Here are the paths they need to go down to acquire one.
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Plan B: Trade for Tyler Glasnow

When to pivot:

1. The Rays' asking price gets crazy high or they prioritize other trades.
2. The Cardinals have a deal in place for another starter on the trade market.

Tyler Glasnow may be controversial to some, but it's what I genuinely believe the Cardinals' actual Plan B to be and would be my Plan B for them as well.

I do think the Cardinals have Yamamoto as their number one target right now, but knowing that he very well could go elsewhere, their signings of Gibson and Lynn lead me to believe they have positioned themselves to take on the risks that Glasnow has attached to him.

Tyler Glasnow, when healthy, is a true number-one starter in today's game. Yes, the lack of starts year to year due to injuries is very concerning, but at this point, the Cardinals need someone to lead their rotation and have to be willing to take on the risks associated with them.

Glasnow's risk is not making many starts during the year. If you sign Yamamoto, you're risking him getting injured or underperforming, and tanking that huge contract he signed. That risk is even greater if they were to sign Blake Snell. If they trade for Dylan Cease or Logan Gilbert, the risk of injury is there, but now the Cardinals are also giving up one of Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan and some top prospects as well. That itself carries a ton of risk. And if the Cardinals choose to sign Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, or one of the other "tier 2" free agent pitchers, they risk not having ace upside in their rotation, and once again, potential injury.

So yes, I understand Glasnow has not proven he can stay on the mound for a full season, but with the way the Cardinals have built their rotation, they can afford to take that risk now. Mikolas, Gibson, and Lynn provide them with three arms that should give them 180 or more innings in 2024, and St. Louis has multiple young arms they can turn to for different stretches if injuries happen.

It's also been well documented with Glasnow that the price to acquire him should be far lower than that of Cease or Gilbert. I've put together three trade packages I think St. Louis and Tampa Bay could agree to recently, and none of them involve giving up the kind of hauls it would require to get those starters who have more team control.

From the Cardinals' perspective, there are other reasons why Glasnow would be a great fit as well. First, obviously, if things go well, the Cardinals have a Cy Young candidate in their rotation who they could look to resign long-term. Glasnow has been pretty open about his desire to resign in Tampa Bay, so the fact that he would stay with an organization like the Rays tells me he'd be open to a long-term fit with St. Louis.

If things don't work out with Glasnow, or if he does decide to leave in free agency, the Cardinals can give him the qualifying offer and receive a draft pick in return for his services. So whatever value the Cardinals did have to give up to get Glasnow, they'd be able to get some of that value back through that draft selection. And if for some reason Glasnow wants to reposition himself for free agency the following year, he could come back to St. Louis on the qualifying offer, helping them fill one of their three option rotation spots for 2025.

The Cardinals should pivot from Glasnow (Plan B) if the Rays ask for too much or they have a trade-in place for Plan C or Plan D. With how the starting pitching market is this offseason, there may be a team desperate enough to really overpay for Glasnow, and if that's the case, the Rays may not accept one of the packages I put together. If they begin asking for a Donovan or Gorman, or a true top prospect like Masyn Winn, Tink Hence, Victor Scott II, or Tekoah Roby, then the Cardinals should hang up the phone immediately.

While they are negotiating though, if a better deal for Plan C or Plan D arises, then the Cardinals should pivot quickly.