Number three starter: Sonny Gray
I told you this rotation is one to get excited about. You could make an argument for Sonny Gray to be the number two starter in this rotation, but based on both talent and how the innings may be structured, I had him coming in at number three.
Gray is going to finish top-3 in American League Cy Young voting this year after posting a 2.79 ERA in 184 innings for the Minnesota Twins this year. Gray is heavily linked to the Cardinals this offseason and will come on a short-term deal at a lower AAV than the other top starters available in free agency.
In this scenario, the Cardinals sign Sonny Gray for three years, $69 million.
Gray has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball for years now and is finally going to get paid for that production. He'll likely net somewhere between $20m and $25m a year annually, so I projected him at $23m a year here.
I don't think anyone expected Gray to be a finalist for the Cy Young again in 2024 as if that was the expectation, he'd be getting north of $30 million a year here. But knowing he has that kind of upside is awesome, and the expectation is an ERA somewhere between 3.00 and 3.40, which is more than good enough to be the third starter here.
Gray is 34 years old, so committing to a three-year deal for him as the number three starter with hopes that one of the pitching prospects can blossom into a significant role by the time he starts regressing would be a great play here by St. Louis.
Gray may not go deep into games all that often, but he'll give the Cardinals high-quality innings when he's out there. Thinking about a playoff rotation, Gray slotting in as the Cardinals' number three starter would be a scary proposition.