Going into the offseason, there will be little room for error when it comes to the St. Louis Cardinals' pursuit of starting pitching help.
Risk will be involved no matter what they do. Signing starters on the open market could end up turning into money they basically lit on fire. Trading for starters could see them lose impact talent without a whole lot in return. The Cardinals cannot avoid this risk, but it would make sense for them to try and mitigate risk with one or two of their acquisitions this winter.
I do NOT mean they should target low-upside starters to avoid that risk. Honestly, that may be even riskier than going after high-end talent. The Cardinals saw what can happen this year if they enter the season without proven, high-end arms in their rotation. They cannot make that same mistake again.
Although we will all inevitably find ways to criticize them if it goes poorly and act as if we knew better, I think we all would much rather see them take big swings this offseason and have that fail than tread water once again. At least do something aggressive, right? Teams with championship aspirations have to take on risk at some point.
But what if there was a way the Cardinals could pursue higher-end arms this winter while also not breaking the bank? They'll need to do so regardless with at least one of their new arms, but what if St. Louis could bring in a starter that the risk of acquisition is not all that crazy?
On the trade market, Dylan Cease will likely be the cream of the crop, and I do believe the Cardinals should be serious about interest in him. But I do think there are other names that may not have quite the upside or team control as Cease provides but could be close to as good of an acquisition without giving up their best young bats.
Someone like Cease or any cost-controlled starter in his tier will cost at least one, if not two of Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar, Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, or Masyn Winn in return. If push comes to shove, the Cardinals will have to consider this if it comes down to it (although Nootbaar and Walker are for sure off the table for me), I do believe there are other options that could be had for a significantly cheaper price in terms of trade value.