6 free agents the Cardinals passed on since 2019 that they should have signed

Over the last five offseasons, there have been a number of names that would have helped out the Cardinals, but these six truly stand out.

Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One
Wild Card Series - Toronto Blue Jays v Minnesota Twins - Game One / David Berding/GettyImages
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Kevin Gausman, 2021

Kevin Gausman has had a remarkable career thus far. He was drafted fourth overall in the 2012 MLB draft, designated by an assignment after a disappointing start to his career, then signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Blue Jays after a career revival, and just finished as a Cy Young finalist in 2023.

His revival began with the Giants, where he posted a 3.00 ERA in 251.2 innings over two seasons, including a 2.81 ERA in 33 starts with San Fransisco in 2021, finishing sixth in Cy Young voting and being an All-Star that year.

Gausman hit free agency after that career year, and while the Cardinals did add a starter that offseason, they went the Steven Matz route instead.

Gausman has gone on to throw 359.2 innings with the Blue Jays the last two seasons, making 31 starts each year with a 3.25 ERA and 11.1 SO/9 over that stretch. he is everything the Cardinals could have wanted in a starter - a top-ten Cy Young finalist each of the last three years, a strikeout machine, and someone who makes every start while eating a ton of innings.

The craziest part of it all to me is that he got a five-year deal with an AAV of just $22 million. If he had free agency this offseason, he's likely looking at something closer to $30 million a year. Gausman has not only been an excellent pitcher but he's been a bargain as well for the Blue Jays.

Sure, it would have been more money, but it's hard to argue that spending the extra $10 million a year wouldn't have been worth it for St. Louis. Even heading into the 2022 season, they should have seen the need to get a top-of-the-rotation talent who could propel this pitching staff into the mid-2020s. Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas were not getting any younger, and outside of Matthew Liberatore at that time, there was no one really close to MLB-ready who had a promising future as a prospect.

Gausman was a really big miss by the organization, and I cannot help but wonder what his presence would have meant in the last two seasons and going into 2024.