While he may not have been a huge name when he hit free agency, Nathan Eovaldi qualified as a higher-end pitcher with postseason success that the Cardinals really should have taken the gamble on last offseason.
Admittedly, I was not a fan of going after Eovaldi in the moment, but it turns out he would have been an excellent addition to the staff. He received a two-year, $34 million deal with the Rangers (the same AAV that Adam Wainwright got) and helped lead the Rangers to their World Series title.
Eovaldi was an All-Star in the first half of the season, and while his numbers won't jump off the page at you from the regular season, pairing him up with Jordan Montgomery this last season would have been an excellent duo. Why do I say that? Well, the two of them just topped the Rangers' rotation in the 2023 postseason. Eovaldi made six starts in the 2023 postseason, posting a 2.95 ERA during that stretch and winning five of those six starts. He had a similar reputation in Boston as a big-game pitcher and should have been a top target for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals did explore the starting pitching market last offseason, but they decided to stick with the internal options, rather than strengthening the staff. Well, that proved to be a disastrous decision and one that the Cardinals surely regret.
Does Eovaldi alone make the Cardinals' problems from 2023 go away? Probably not. But I do think his presence would have stabilized things early on. I would envision their lows aren't as low to start the year, and even if it would have been a disappointing first half, my guess is they would've been close enough to the playoff race that they could have bought at the trade deadline, and truly become a team that could make a run in the second half.