#3 - Jordan Montgomery
Since being acquired from the New York Yankees in the Harrison Bader trade, Jordan Montgomery has been one of the most reliable pitchers on the Cardinals' staff.
In his 11 starts after the trade deadline, Montgomery went 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA over 63.2 innings while helping lock down the rotation as the Cardinals ran away with the NL Central title. Standing at 6-6, the big lefty is looking to build upon his success in St. Louis as he finds himself a year away from free agency.
Since debuting in 2017 for the Yankees, he has a career 3.85 ERA but really appeared to find a new level to his game after coming over to the Cardinals after the trade deadline. Montgomery has been a popular name this off-season to get an extension to provide more clarity for their rotation beyond 2023, but I am a bit more cautious than most are.
First, although Montgomery stepped it up a notch for the Cardinals, he doesn't have the ceiling of a front-line starter that the Cardinals currently lack most. Sure, he'd be a great member of the five-man group for years to come, but when it comes to prioritizing who to retain, the Cardinals need to keep guys with ace-like stuff.
The second reason I'd rank him three on this list is that there's a non-arbitration pitcher in a contract year who is also in a contract year in Miles Mikolas who may be better as the club's number two or number three starter in 2024 and beyond. Mikolas was an All-Star in 2022 and a Cy Young candidate back in 2018, and although he's four years older than Montgomery, he's been the better of the two during their careers.
Again, if the Cardinals extend Montgomery, it would be a good move for the club. I just think there's a gap between the top two guys and Montgomery.