1. Aaron Nola
Aaron Nola would be the big fish of the offseason. His name has been mentioned at the top of free agent lists this offseason with Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Blake Snell. Should St. Louis acquire Nola, it would be a fantastic addition to the rotation. Nola has pitched solely in Philadelphia, and this is his first chance to test free agency.
Aaron Nola has been both a workhorse and an ace throughout his career. He has made 32 or more starts in 5 of his 9 seasons, he has pitched greater than 180 innings in 5 seasons, and he has received Cy Young votes, an All-Star nod, and even MVP votes in 2018. He has a career 3.72 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 1.129 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9 rate. Nola has been a top pitcher in all of baseball throughout his 9-year career.
In 2023, Aaron Nola took a bit of a step back. He finished the season with a 4.46 ERA, 4.03 FIP, and a 1.151 WHIP. He allowed more walks than he did in 2022, and he had the lowest K/9 rate of his career (9.4). His 4-seamer, curveball, and sinker all took massive dips in run value according to Baseball Savant. Where Nola was successful was in limiting walks and getting batters to chase.
He pitched best in August this past year, but he struggled throughout September and October. In the postseason, Nola was stellar. He pitched 23 innings and finished with a 3-1 record. He had a 2.35 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. Nola's performances were not the reason the Phillies were trounced from the playoffs.
While there is slight concern that Nola won't be able to replicate his past successes based on his 2023 season, he has shown an ability to lead a team to victory multiple times during his career. Nola would be the ace the Cardinals' staff was missing in 2023. The Athletic projects Nola to sign a 5-year, $125 million contract, but figures nearing $200 million have been thrown around this offseason as well.