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.
Republic of Korea v Japan - Baseball - Olympics: Day 12
Republic of Korea v Japan - Baseball - Olympics: Day 12 / Koji Watanabe/GettyImages
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Plan D: Trade for Logan Gilbert

When to pivot:

1. The Mariners decide to hold onto Gilbert
2. Asking price takes two or more of the Cardinals' best young position players

There are only two plans left, and honestly, this is one that would be hard to stomach, but probably not as difficult to stomach as the next option the Cardinals have.

Logan Gilbert is one of the most valuable trade assets in baseball. He's a workhorse starter who already profiles as a really good number three or low-end number two in this league, with the potential to be even more than that. He just entered arbitration for the first time this year and is under team control through the 2027 season, meaning the Cardinals won't have to give him a huge contract for a while.

The Mariners know this well and would love to have that luxury in their own rotation for a long time. The only reason they'd entertain trading Gilbert would be to give their lineup a massive upgrade. I think the starting point for any Gilbert deal on the Mariners' side would be Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, or Nolan Gorman.

The first two names are for sure off the table, so the Cardinals would need to construct a deal around Gorman to get the Mariners' interest. That would be Gorman and Donovan for Gilbert, that could be Gorman, Burleson, and a top prospect or two, or it could be some other super expensive package. I really do not see the Mariners moving off of Gilbert unless they get a massive haul.

If I'm being honest, I wouldn't do this deal. I actually prefer the last resort option that we'll get to next over this. Part of the reason that Gilbert would be so expensive to acquire is all of the control he has remaining. Unless the Cardinals plan on signing another starter on top of trading for him, I don't think it makes sense to weaken the lineup as much as they would need to in order to bring him in.

Gilbert is not an ace yet. He very well could be in 2024, but Cease, Glasnow, and Yamamoto are all better talents right now. Frankly, I'd expect Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery to put up the same production as Gilbert for 2024. So why am I giving up all of that value to acquire him?

Some may say turn the attention onto Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller instead, but the Cardinals already got their back-of-the-rotation options in Lynn and Gibson. They need a front-line starter now.

If the Cardinals can pull this deal off with a package that takes something like Gorman or Donovan and a few top prospects or depth pieces, then sure, it makes sense. But if the Mariners want more than that or decide to hold onto Gilbert, then it's time for Plan E (the last resort).