5) Eric Lauer
This is the first starter I've included. That's because there aren't a ton of "under the radar" starters left on the free-agent market. They've all either already signed or gained enough attention to no longer be considered a "sneaky" signing. Starting pitching is in demand all around the league. The problems the Cardinals experienced last year weren't exactly unique. Almost every team in major league baseball could use additional starting depth; in that sense, the Cardinals aren't exactly unique.
Lauer established himself as a quality option across 2021 and 2022 when he recorded a 3.47 ERA in 277.1 innings. The 28-year-old lefty earned a spot in the Brewers' Opening Day rotation in 2023. Unfortunately, he disappointed. Lauer earned the win in his first start of the year but was rocked by the Cardinals on April 8th. His ERA jumped to 7.71. It would never fall below 4.30. Lauer struggled through April and May before landing on the IL with a shoulder impingement. He returned in June but was optioned immediately.
His next start came September 30th. After pitching poorly against the Chicago Cubs, Lauer's season ended. He finished 4-6 with a 6.56 ERA. Most of Lauer's peripherals remained similar to his other seasons. However, his home run rate jumped to a staggering 3.1 HR/9. He allowed an absurd 16 home runs in just 46.2 innings. This is, at least in part, due to bad luck. Lauer had an unsustainably high percentage of his fly balls leave the park. Whatever the problems, Lauer's 2023 was a major disappointment for Milwaukee. It's hard to believe he used to do this.
Can all of Lauer's regression be chalked up to bad luck? Probably not. However, it must be remembered that Lauer has been a quality pitcher before and is still just 28 years old. His value is probably at an all time low. After the 2023 season, the Brewers released him, and Lauer became an unrestricted free agent. Lauer is probably looking for a shot in a big-league rotation. But, considering the fact that it's already January, teams may not be interested in extending him that opportunity. The Cardinals should absolutely consider adding the lefty. He would bolster their depth and could function as an effective long man.