Elbow injury epidemic might justify Cardinals' unpopular spending philosophy

The Cardinals were blasted for not spending big on free-agent starters this offseason. But recent arm injuries indicate this might've been the wise decision.
Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One
Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Angels - Game One / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

It was an extremely frustrating weekend for baseball fans as we learned Guardians ace Shane Bieber would undergo Tommy John surgery and Braves ace Spencer Strider suffered an injury to his UCL, which could also force him to miss the rest of the season. The pitching market this trade deadline will once again be extremely thin, and for the St. Louis Cardinals, that is very bad news.

While the Cardinals have built a decent rotation to sustain the regular season, they didn't make an impactful splash to take the staff to the next level. They signed Sonny Gray to a 3-year deal and both Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn to one-year deals. To become a World Series contender, they need to add another arm at the Trade Deadline, but the recent surge in elbow injuries will pose a problem.

However, this could justify the Cardinals' conservative spending philosophy with regard to starting pitching. Ownership was hesitant to invest long-term in many of the starters available this offseason, and that might've been the wisest choice for the team. None of the starters who signed long-term deals this offseason have gotten injured so far, but the track record is not good.

Most of the highest-paid pitchers of all time have suffered a severe injury at some point, which the Cardinals could not afford to sustain. Even last year's AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole hurt his UCL during Spring Training, and he might not be available until much later in the season. He provides great value as a DH, but the Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani to a $700 million contract knowing he had a torn UCL and would miss the entire year as a pitcher, a massive risk.

The Cardinals are certainly playing it safe by signing starters to shorter contracts, but it's definitely not as bad a strategy as we originally thought. Had the Cardinals signed Stephen Strasburg or Jacob deGrom to massive contracts, it would be a complete disaster for the future of the team. Fans may be critical of ownership for not taking the big risk, but right now starting pitching is riskier than ever, and falling on the wrong side of that risk could derail the franchise for a long time.