As a result, the Cardinals lost 91 games and finished in last place in the NL Central, falling short of the postseason for the first time since 2018. We know that the pitching will have to come from outside the organization. There are options in both the trade and free-agent markets, but the Cardinals may not be able to rely solely on the free-agent market to get their pitchers.
One potential option that could emerge is Cleveland Guardians starter and ace Shane Bieber.
Much like the Cardinals, the Guardians took a massive step back in 2023. After winning 92 games and cruising to an AL Central title, Cleveland fell flat and finished with a record of 76-86, in third place in the division behind the Twins and Tigers.
We've heard a lot over the past couple of years about how the Cardinals needed controllable arms. With the 2023 season now over, that's less of an issue. They just need three strong starting pitchers to fill the holes in the rotation, though club control certainly doesn't hurt.
Bieber is a free agent after the 2024 season, and in all likelihood, the Guardians won't be able to give him a contract extension. But this is where the Cardinals could jump on an opportunity.
I understand that due to his injuries this year, there is a risk. But I'm inclined to believe that there is less of one with Bieber than there is with Tyler Glasnow. Bieber had a good season, but not a great one, and his stats were atypical of the kind of pitcher he's been in the past.
In 21 starts, the 28-year-old right-hander and former Cy Young was 6-6 with a 3.80 ERA. Again, not bad, but not great. Obviously, the injury played a bit of a role in that, but he did come back at the end of the season.
But what would it take for the Cardinals to actually swing a deal with the Guardians for Bieber? Even after dealing with injuries and not having his best year, Bieber won't come cheap. It won't be one of those cases where John Mozeliak can pull off a heist.
Cleveland will want something big in return, and this potential trade package is one that I think could get the job done.
Nolan Gorman and Alec Burleson for Shane Bieber
I'm sure Cardinals fans will roll their eyes when they see Gorman as part of this trade proposal, but you have to understand that in order to receive, one must give, and Cleveland is going to want a big return.
I highly doubt Jordan Walker is going anywhere, but the next best guy would have to be Gorman in my opinion. I believe that this potential package could get it done. The Guardians are in desperate need of some offense, which is something the Cardinals have plenty of. That's not to say that the offense wasn't ever an issue, but they do have plenty of talented young hitters.
Gorman could potentially slot in as a designated hitter and even play second base on a regular basis. That would allow Cleveland to move Andres Gimenez to shortstop. Burleson could get more at-bats in Cleveland than he could get with the Cardinals. He and Josh Naylor could split time between first base and DH, and the Cardinals would also be able to clear up their outfield logjam a little bit.
As for how this would help the Cardinals, well, this would give them a true ace-caliber pitcher for their rotation, while also still leaving room for them to sign two starters in free agency. Sure, there's a risk involved, but every good deal is going to hurt a little bit. Gorman is a star in the making, but you have to give up talent to get it.