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
Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants
Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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Robbie Ray

After winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2021 with the Blue Jays, Robbie Ray signed a 5 year, $115 million deal with the Mariners to be their new ace.

Known for his strikeout stuff, Ray was still good in 2022, but his ERA rose to 3.71 across 189 innings of work. He only made one start in 2023 before having season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Amazingly enough, Seattle still boasts an incredible rotation featuring Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryan Woo, and Bryce Miller, along with more pitching coming through the pipeline like Emerson Hancock. Seattle's identity is built around their pitching, and they've been open about not wanting to trade from that depth, but I could see them considering offloading Ray's contract to pursue offensive upgrades this winter.

Ray is going to have very little value on the market, but if the Mariners are willing to eat some money on him in order to bring in a bat or two, I think a deal could be made here. The team is rumored to be in on the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, and even if they strike out there, I'm sure they'll want to allocate more money to their offense.

I could see an Alec Burleson type being the centerpiece of a deal here, and then potentially more if they eat a ton of money on his deal. Honestly, though, the Cardinals could give up next to nothing and take on more of that contract as well. 3 years, $73 million is not a crazy number compared to what others will get on the market this offseason, so it's something worth considering. I doubt Seattle can offload him without taking on any of his money owed, so that number would likely dip no matter what.

Yup, there's a lot of risk with a player coming off Tommy John surgery entering his age 32 season. Ray has also been pretty up and down throughout his career, so you wonder a bit about which version you'd be getting. But if the trade capital cost is low and the Mariners are eating money here, it's worth exploring.