5 starters the Cardinals could trade for without giving up their best young bats

If the Cardinals can thread the needle and acquire one of these starters on the trade market this offseason, they may not have to give up their best young talent
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Shane Bieber

It wasn't all that long ago that Shane Bieber was one of the more desirable starters in all of baseball and would've taken a massive haul to acquire. The Guardians misplayed their hand a bit here, and now his value had dropped significantly.

Is Bieber a true ace anymore? Probably not, and that's not why the Cardinals should trade for him anyway. St. Louis has to fill multiple holes in their rotation next year, and Bieber would come at a low cost for the value he could provide as their number-two starter.

In 19 starts this year, Bieber had a 3.77 ERA before landing on the IL with elbow inflammation. The underlying numbers for Bieber were not kind to him, and he's seen his strikeout rate drop from 12.5 K/9 in 2021 to 7.3 in 2023. There is more smoke and mirrors and reliance on the defense in his game than there was before, but having just turned 28 years old, I'm not sure we should expect him to have a massive decline any time soon either.

Let's talk about the price to acquire here. Bieber will be entering a contract year, has seen a decline in performance year (although he did have a 2.88 ERA in 2022), and will be getting a raise from the $10 million salary he was on this year (I would guess in the $13-$16 million range).

If the Cardinals wanted to get the equivalent of Bieber on the free agent market, they are likely looking at a 3-5 year deal at $18 million to $23 million a year. Not exactly a low-risk move.

Acquiring Bieber should not require any of the Cardinals' best position player talent in my opinion. If it would, they should end discussions immediately. Even with the upside Bieber has, I would imagine that the question marks will weigh down the cost significantly.

Names like Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, or even packages involving guys like Cesar Prieto or Michael McGreevy could get the ball rolling here if the Guardians want to retain some value for Bieber before he walks next year. I could maybe see Tommy Edman's name getting involved, but that would be if Bieber's name value adds an extra tax to acquiring him.

The other part about a Bieber deal is that the Cardinals can afford to go after a one-year rental like him and reaccess their rotation following 2024. Yes, they need to bring in some long-term solutions, but committing money long-term to three different arms, on top of Mikolas and Matz, could be risky business, and with names like Tink Hence and Tekoah Roby on the way, they don't need to.

The Guardians may decide it's not worth it and at least hold onto him until the deadline, but I would imagine they are open to offers this winter.