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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Republic of Korea v Japan - Baseball - Olympics: Day 12 / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages
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Plan C: Trade for Dylan Cease

When to pivot:

1. The White Sox decide to hold onto Cease or deal him elsewhere.
2. The White Sox's asking price goes well beyond what we discussed here.

The idea of a team settling for their "Plan C" sounds like a bad outcome, but if the Cardinals are truly invested in the top of the market, a Dylan Cease is a great fallback option here.

In a lot of ways, Cease offers the Cardinals things the first two names on this list could not, namely being cost-controlled for the next two seasons. Yamamoto will likely require an annual value north of $30 million a year, while Glasnow is under contract for just 2024 at $25 million. Not exactly cheap options when it comes to salary. Well, Cease would be under contract for a projected arbitration number of just below $9 million in 2023, then a slight pay raise in 2025 as well.

Because of that though, the Cardinals would have to pony up more in terms of trade value to acquire Cease. While the biggest name I could see happening in a deal for Glasnow would be Tommy Edman (although it would more likely be an Alec Burleson or Dylan Carlson plus a little bit more), the White Sox would likely demand one of Gorman or Donovan, plus a top prospect, and potentially more to secure Cease's services. I put together different versions of this trade on the site recently if you want to get a better idea of what we'd be talking about.

If the Cardinals could somehow pull this deal off by sending Edman, prospects, and even some of those depth names like Burleson or Carlson, then I'd be all-in on making a Cease deal happen. I'd also be very interested in a deal just involving prospects if the White Sox would be interested. But my assumption is that Chicago will want one of those prized young bats in return, which is why I think this is more of Plan C for the Cardinals as well.

Now, Cease was a Cy Young candidate in 2022 and his stuff has not diminished at all. He eats a ton of innings, strikes a lot of guys out, and would profile well as the Cardinals' ace for 2024 and 2025. Like Glasnow, the Cardinals can work on an extension for Cease as well, hopefully locking in their top starter for years to come while they continue to develop pitching in-house. Even if they had to give up a Tink Hence in the deal, they'd still have guys like Tekoah Roby, Cooper Hjerpe, and Gordon Graceffo would could contribute in the future.

The Cardinals would only need to pivot here if Cease is dealt to another team, the White Sox decide to hold onto him for the beginning of 2024, or if their asking price is beyond what we've discussed here. Even if I don't want to give up one of the young bats, a top prospect, and more to get Cease, I understand why the White Sox want that. But if they begin to ask for Gorman and Donovan, or one of those guys plus two top prospects and more, or any other outrageous requests, the Cardinals will need to pivot to Plan D.