Have the Cardinals already made their biggest mistake of the offseason?

In what seemed like a solid move at the time, the Miles Mikolas extension may already be haunting the Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Justin Casterline/GettyImages
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Before the 2023 season began, fans and media alike were pounding the table about the St. Louis Cardinals only having one starting pitcher under contract beyond this season. While I was not super concerned with having one of their current starters extended, I understood why they would consider it, and the Cardinals eventually made a deal with Miles Mikolas.

At the time, the Mikolas extension seemed like a win for the Cardinals. They front-loaded money onto his 2023 salary, making his salary in 2024 and 2025 just $16 million each year. For context, that would tie Mikolas for the 26th-highest salary among all pitchers in baseball, and all of the pitchers above him on that list are also past their arbitration years. It shaped up to be a really nice bargain for St. Louis going forward.

Well, Mikolas has not been good this year. After his most recent start against the Brewers, he now has a 4.95 ERA in 33 starts and has looked like a shell of his 2022 self. I'm not ready to give up on Mikolas as a quality starter, we've seen him bounce back from disappointing seasons before, but the Cardinals' concern level should be very high.

Mikolas was supposed to give the Cardinals a level of certainty for their 2024 rotatoin, not add to the question marks. Now that $16 million is invested in a guy who gives up about five runs for every nine innings pitched, looking far more like a number five starter than a number three in your rotatoin.

Some will say they should have extended Jordan Montgomery, but it's more complicated than them just picking the wrong guy. Montgomery is a Boras client, and even though he said he would've resigned, it would have likely taken an offer in the $25 million per year range to pull it off. If the Cardinals really want to bring Montgomery back, they can do so in free agency this offseason.

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In hindsight, having an extra $16 million to spend in free agency with four open rotation spots sounds a bit better to me than Mikolas locked down through 2025. Again, I'm hoping he can turn things around in 2024, but I'm not holding my breath right now.