2023 has been somewhat of a reality check for the Cardinals, whose pitching strategy, or lack thereof cost them a chance at contention. The Cardinals are already out of contention in the NL Central and are soon to be out of the mix in the Wild Card race as well.
No pitching was added heading into the season, not for the rotation and not for the bullpen, which in turn has them set to finish under .500 for the first time since 2007. Gone are Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty. They were both traded away at the deadline.
But on a positive note, this season has opened the door for some young pitchers to make an impact, and Zack Thompson is one of those pitchers. With just a few weeks left in the season, Thompson has unexpectedly emerged as the team's best pitcher.
His best performance so far was on September 3, when he gave the Cardinals seven innings of three-run ball against the Pirates. Personally, I thought they should have let him go deeper into the game, even beyond the seventh, but he still did an impressive job.
We know the Cardinals are going to need three starting pitchers this offseason. More than likely, when John Mozeliak said that, he meant from outside the organization. But could an unexpected option have already emerged from within?
On one hand, Thompson has pitched very well and could potentially take a spot in the rotation at some point next year, whether it's the Opening Day rotation or down the road if somebody gets hurt. His strong second half has been impressive, and he's put together a solid case to be in the rotation next year.
If that's the case, he could take the fifth spot and the Cardinals could have a little extra money to spend if they want to go for someone like Aaron Nola.
However, the Cardinals have banked heavily on their internal options for a long time, and it consistently gets them into trouble. So while Thompson could be a viable rotation piece, the Cardinals would be taking a major risk by just giving him the fifth spot.
At the very least, Thompson has shown that he deserves more opportunities, but that doesn't mean the Cardinals should settle for less when they look for pitching from outside the organization at the end of the season.