8 steps the Cardinals should take to retool for 2025 if they fail again this year

The Cardinals have plenty of time to get into contention, but if things go south again, we may see them enter a true "retool" with young talent come July.
Arizona Diamondbacks v St. Louis Cardinals
Arizona Diamondbacks v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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Explore a Sonny Gray trade, but only deal him if the return is overwhelming

Sonny Gray is a true front-line starter, and I'd argue a clear ace in today's game. Match him up against any starter in baseball, and he can go toe to toe against them and put his team in position to with the game. But at age 34, the Cardinals would at least need to consider the idea of auctioning him off to the highest bidder for an absolute haul.

I may write something exploring just how much the Cardinals could get in return for Gray if they traded him, but it's safe to say it would be a lot. For the Cardinals, Gray would bring them back the kind of prospects that could change the outlook of their club in future seasons. If they are really retooling, they likely won't see themselves as contenders for 2025, so does it really make sense to hold onto their ace during some down years?

Gray's salary rises from $10 million to $25 million in 2025 and then $35 million in 2026, with a mutual option in 2027 that includes a $5 million buyout. Gray will be 36 entering the 2026 season making $35 million. While Gray could still be an elite starter then, he also may have declined, and the Cardinals would not have the elite version of him they do right now.

There are a number of reasons it could make sense to keep Gray though. First, the Cardinals wouldn't be blowing things up and going into a full-scale rebuild, so even if they wouldn't be an elite team in 2024, Gray would surely help them compete with their young core in 2025 and beyond.

Second, and maybe even more important, Gray can be the leader of a young pitching staff that is trying to find their way in this league. In early 2025, you could see names like Gordon Graceffo, Sem Robberse, Andre Pallante, Zack Thompson, Michael McGreevy, and Adam Kloffenstein. Later in the year, some of their top arms like Tink Hence, Tekoah Roby, Cooper Hjerpe, or Quinn Mathews could reach St. Louis as well. Gray could lead the rotation both in performance and in a mentoring nature.

So, as I stated at the top, the Cardinals would be foolish not to field offers on Gray if they decide to retool, but they have no reason to move him unless they get a haul in return. If some contender does not blow them away in July, or unless Gray asks out of St. Louis, they should hold onto him to help usher in a new era of Cardinals pitching.