The nightmare that was the 2023 season is now officially behind us. The Cardinals will now look to beef up their pitching staff for the 2024 season. Their biggest need? Starting pitching. They'll need three starters from outside the organization.
Who those starters are is anybody's guess. Fortunately, the Cardinals will have a bevy of options to choose from. The top three starters on the market are Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Sonny Gray. However, they are not the only options available. Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be had, as well as Shota Imanaga.
Either way, the Cardinals really need to dig deep into their pocketbooks this winter. It's the only way they'll return to World Series contender status. And in a perfect world, the Cardinals would sign two aces.
Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently posted an article where he talked about how the Cardinals need both Gray and Nola. I'm inclined to agree with him. However, there is one thing to keep in mind here.
Yes, the Cardinals do need two aces, and they need two aces badly. But will they be able to do it?
You see, there is something we as fans need to keep in mind. Every team is looking for at least one ace. This means that the Cardinals are going to have to compete with the big boys, meaning the Yankees, Dodgers, Phillies, Red Sox, Mets, and even the Padres.
The last time the Cardinals negotiated with a top free-agent pitcher was in 2015 when they were on the verge of signing David Price. However, when the Red Sox swooped in at the last minute, the Cardinals didn't budge and ultimately let him sign in Boston.
Now, that ended up working out just fine for the Cardinals, but it is an example of how the Cardinals sometimes have cold feet when it comes to going after big-name pitchers. That won't be acceptable this winter.
The Cardinals haven't won the World Series since 2011 or even been back since 2013. It's at least encouraging to know that the team is already showing interest in Gray and Nola. They do at least seem to recognize that changes must be made in their offseason approach.
But even so, the Cardinals will still have to compete against big market teams, teams who have more financial resources, even if the Cardinals do try to go for two aces.
This is why I'm skeptical that they'll be able to get it done. I do believe they'll be able to get at least one ace, but two might be a stretch given who they'll be up against.
And at the same time, the Cardinals' recent track record of signing pitchers isn't great. The signings of Mike Leake, Brett Cecil, Andrew Miller, and Steven Matz precede them. Understanding the approach needs to change is one thing, but actually being able to pull this off is another. They know they'll have to bid high and actually put forth competitive offers. They could certainly do it, but it's harder than it sounds.
Can the Cardinals finally pony up and outbid the big-market teams, or will they have to settle for just one ace?