Plan E (or last resort): Sign the best starter left on the market
When to pivot:
1. There are no more pivots left. The Cardinals are out of options and have to get a deal done.
If the Cardinals strike out on Yamamoto, Glasnow, Cease, and Gilbert, then they have to sign someone like Blake Snell, Sonny Gray, or Jordan Montgomery.
Snell would be the best option available here, but I have my own concerns about how his contract will age over time. But if all of the other top-end options are gone, the Cardinals need to be aggressive for Snell. The concern about innings can be mitigated by the innings eaters the Cardinals' have, so it would be worth taking a gamble on the top-end stuff he has.
I'm a huge Gray fan, but with how the Cardinals decided to address their other two starting pitching options, he would be an extremely underwhelming number-one starter for this rotation. Montgomery was excellent in 2023, but bringing him back as the ace would make their 2024 rotation look eerily similar to the group they had last year, and that did not work out well at all.
If this is the plan the Cardinals land on, they will get an overall offseason grade of a C- if they grabbed Snell, D if they sign Gray or Montgomery, and a flat-out F if it's anyone worse than that.
There is no more patience left for this organization, and they've backed themselves into a corner in their pursuit of pitching. I do believe they are prioritizing the first four names on this list, and I'd bet they end up with one of Yamamoto, Glasnow, Cease, or Gilbert as their other starting pitcher acquisition, but there's also a real possibility they miss out on all four even if they are aggressive in their pursuit. Yamamoto could choose to sign elsewhere even if the best offer is from the Cardinals, and the Rays, White Sox, and Mariners could trade their guys elsewhere or ask for far too much from St. Louis.
That's not an excuse for the Cardinals. At this point, if they cannot pull it off, they have no one to blame but themselves, even if each individual miss from those four starters "makes sense". This is the price the Cardinals have to pay for failing to position their rotation for success up until this point.
Let's hope the Cardinals are truly aggressive and are able to pull off one of these first four moves. Honestly, I think it will be chaotic if they do not, and I for one do not want to live through another disaster season.