The name that is most consistently brough up with the Cardinals, and especially when it comes to a potential early signing, is Sonny Gray.
If you've read any of my work, you know I am a big fan of Gray, especially due to the short-term contract and lower AAV than other starters will be getting on the market. Don't get me wrong, I want the Cardinals to get a starter who is better than Gray as well, but seriously, Gray is an awesome pitcher.
Gray finished second in the American League Cy Young voting this year after posting a 2.79 ERA in 184 innings of work for the Twins. Gray has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for a long time now, and even though he's about to get paid, it won't be nearly as much as the other top arms.
RA9-WAR is one of the best stats out there for measuring a pitcher's value. as it calculates a pitcher's war based on their runs allowed per nine innings rather than FIP. Gray posted a 6.1 RA9-WAR in 2023, which was third in baseball behind the Cy Young winners Blake Snell and Gerrit Cole. If you go by fWAR, he was tied for third in baseball, behind Zack Wheeler, Spencer Strider, and Kevin Gausman. That is elite company Gray finds himself in.
Why would Gray sign early? Well, he wants to get paid, but he also values being closer to home (Nashville, Tennessee) and being "wanted" by the organization he signs with. St. Louis can fulfill all three of those desires with an aggressive offer before Thanksgiving.
This would provide Gray and his family with certainty about where he will be playing for the next three or four years before the holidays, which is something I'm sure Gray would love to have figured out. He's not going to take a discount to sign early, but if the Cardinals make a fair and aggressive offer now, I think there's a strong chance they get a deal done.