Once the deadline passes for players to accept or decline qualifying offers, free agency will start to ratchet up. That deadline is tomorrow.
Once again, John Mozeliak is being very inconsistent and unclear about his intentions this winter. After saying he needed three starters, he's gone from saying he needs at least two to two and a half. What this means is anybody's guess. But it's obvious that the Cardinals need to do some adding this offseason on the pitching front.
One pitcher that recently became available is Cubs right-hander and former ace Marcus Stroman. According to Jon Heyman, the Cardinals have checked in on the right-hander as they search for ways to improve their starting rotation.
In 27 appearances this year, 25 of which were starts, the 32-year-old went 10-9 with an ERA of 3.95. He also pitched 136.2 innings and struck out 119 batters during the 2023 season.
But if the Cardinals are indeed targeting him, as Heyman notes, would he make sense for the Cardinals? Would this be a signing that moves the needle for St. Louis and puts them back in the conversation for World Series contention?
There are a number of things to unpack here as we determine whether or not Stroman makes sense for the Cardinals as they seek to return to postseason contention in 2024. Some may say that it makes sense, while others could argue that the Cardinals need to do better.
In this piece, we will attempt to answer this question.
The plus side
If the Cardinals are to pursue Stroman, there are certainly pros and cons. We'll start with the plus side.
For starters, Stroman is a fierce competitor and is exactly the type of personality the Cardinals would benefit from. He would bring a ton of fire to the clubhouse, not unlike John Lackey when he was acquired back in 2014.
I feel like the players would really like having someone like him around to keep them motivated and to also play with a little extra boisterousness. Keep in mind that the Cardinals really didn't have much fight in 2023, and that shows in the final standings for the year. But Stroman has experience pitching for winning ballclubs, dating back to his time with the Blue Jays. He's pitched in some postseason games and does have experience leading a pitching staff.
Stroman obviously would not be the ace of the Cardinals staff, but having a guy with big game experience and a bit of an edge to him could ignite a fire under everybody in the clubhouse. The Cardinals really need that in order to bounce back from their dreadful and forgettable 2023 season. In addition, he's familiar with Willson Contreras, who caught him in 2022 with the Cubs, so that would certainly benefit the right-hander, as well as Contreras.
Stroman won't come cheap by any means, but he obviously wouldn't be nearly as expensive as somebody like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, making him an affordable option for St. Louis.
There are obviously several red flags that the Cardinals would need to be aware of with Stroman. Sure, red flags and other concerns come with every player to a certain degree, but that doesn't mean the Cardinals should brush those aside.
Stroman is a decent strikeout pitcher, having averaged 7.8 per nine innings this year, but he's really more of a ground ball guy, and the Cardinals really need more swing and miss in their rotation and in their bullpen.
He has also watched his ERA climb each year since 2021. Last season, he posted a 3.50 ERA and was limited to 25 starts. This year, his ERA was much closer to four. That isn't bad by any means, but it is something the Cardinals have to keep an eye on. Injuries have also limited him, though none of them have been arm-related. But that is still a concern as the Cardinals assess their needs for 2024.
It's obvious that Stroman, while still mostly effective, is not the same pitcher he once was with the Blue Jays and Mets. Signing him may seem like more of a bargain move to Cardinals fans, who desperately want a World Series-contending club.