6 paths the Cardinals can take with newly reported financial flexibility

The Cardinals have more money to spend then we thought, as they've backloaded the contract of newly acquired Sonny Gray. What moves can they make now?
Aug 3, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) pitches
Aug 3, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) pitches / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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Trade for Tyler Glasnow

If there are two names I have been unapologetically high on this winter, they are Sonny Gray and Tyler Glasnow. I very much believe this is where the breadcrumbs are leading to at the moment.

Now, once again, I don't think the Cardinals are married to any of these ideas. I don't think they will overpay to get Glasnow from the Rays. If another team offers a silly amount of value to Tampa Bay, I think the Cardinals will look elsewhere. But this deal just makes way too much sense not to happen now.

Here's my line of thinking. While appearing on the "Baseball Tonight Podcast", Derrick Goold stated that the Cardinals pursued only free agents to start the offseason "by design", so that they could come into the Winter Meetings with their starting pitching needs met and could then begin to explore trades.

You may also remember Goold's reporting from back on October 6th over at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required), stating that if the Rays entertain discussions on Glasnow, the Cardinals "Will call. Or email. Or text. Or all three". He's continued to report their interest in Glasnow since then as well.

This all screams to me that the Cardinals wanted to get certainty into their rotation early in the offseason, and then explore high-upside moves like Glasnow once those were in place, something we talked about at length on the Noot News Podcast on Wednesday.

Glasnow is set to make $25 million in 2024, the final year of control before he hits free agency. He would be by far the highest-paid player in Rays' history if he remained on the roster, so considering how they do business, moving off of him is a no-brainer.

Due to that large salary, lack of long-term control, and his lengthy injury history, Glasnow will not net the Rays a significant return like Dylan Cease will for the White Sox. Instead, they'll likely get a mix of big-league talent and/or prospects, but none of them would be particularly crazy in terms of value.

For St. Louis, a deal with the framework of one of their outfielders (Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, or Alec Burleson) plus a mid-tier prospect feels close to what the price will be. Could be a bit more, but we aren't talking about moving Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan here. I also think they could get creative by including a starting pitcher like Steven Matz to help the Rays replace the innings they are losing from Glasnow. I put together trade packages for Glasnow on the site recently.

The Cardinals rotation is now perfectly set up to take on the risk that Glasnow comes with due to having a dependable front-line arm in Gray, and dependable innings eaters in Lynn, Mikolas, and Gibson. If Glasnow misses starts, the Cardinals rotation will be fine in those stretches. But what Glasnow would give St. Louis is a guy who can pair with Gray to be an elite 1-2 punch in October. For all of the durability concerns people have with Glasnow, he pitched in the postseason for the Rays in 2019, 2020, 2022, and 2023.

I personally think this is a very real scenario that the Cardinals will be entertaining over the coming weeks. Glasnow feels like the cherry on top of this offseason for the Cardinals, and I'd be over the moon if they can pull it off. I talked about this idea even further on the Noot News Podcast with Redbird Rants contributor Andrew Wang.

The reason I included six different routes they could take is because I truly believe they are open-minded to seeing how things play out. If they can get Yamamoto, they are going to do it. If Glasnow truly makes perfect sense, they'll pursue it. If the Cease deal lines up for them, they'll try to pull the trigger. If the tier two or tier three pitching market falls to where they want it, they'll pounce. If there are moves to be made to really give this bullpen a makeover, they will. Or if they just want to get their bullpen fixes quickly settled and have money left over for trades during the season, they certainly can go that route.

Backloading Gray's contract has opened up so many possibilities for the Cardinals, and I for one am excited to see how they approach the rest of the offseason.