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.
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.