Decisions #3 and #4 - How to acquire the number two starter and who is should be
Like the number one starter, we need to figure out which path the Cardinals will take to acquire their number three starter, so we put that to a vote as well.
Free agency got 59.6% of the vote, so it was time to find some options that qualified as a number two starter with the budget they had remaining. If fans had voted for a trade, some higher-end options like Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, Logan Gilbert, or Shane Bieber could have been on the board, but it would have cost varying levels of impactful pieces from the Cardinals offense or prospect pool.
Option #1 - Shota Imanaga at four years, $52 million ($13 million AAV). Imanaga, like Yamamoto, is coming over from Japan this offseason and has become an intriguing option around the league. He does not have nearly the same ceiling as Yamamoto and is five years older at age 30, but is a lefty who has nice strikeout stuff. The upside is someone who can be a lower-end number two starter but is far more likely a number three at best. Given how much the Cardinals have left to spend though, it's the kind of move they'd need to consider.
Option #2 - Eduardo Rodriguez at five years, $90 million ($18 million AAV). After opting out of his contract with the Detroit Tigers, Rodriguez hits the market as an intriguing left-handed starter who just posted a 3.30 ERA in 26 starts. He's not flashy, but he can provide St. Louis with a playoff-tested lefty who does not have a significant injury history and is just 30 years old.
Option #3 - Sonny Gray at three years, $69 million ($23 million AAV). I debated whether or not I should include Gray as an option here after signing Yamamoto, as the Cardinals' budget took a huge hit there. I still did, as Gray is strongly linked with the Cardinals and feels like the perfect number-two starter. Should the Cardinals sign a guy like Aaron Nola or Blake Snell, or trade for their number one starter, Gray feels like a slam dunk move as their number two starter. Yamamoto's large number makes it more difficult to fit Gray, but on just a three-year deal, I think St. Louis can find a way to make it work.
Option #4 - Charlie Morton at one year, $16 million. Morton has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for a long time, consistently providing front-end quality stuff but never being mentioned among the best in the game. He is turning 40 before the 2024 season though, so seems like a pretty big risk that he would remain a quality starter. He's coming off a 30-start season where he posted a 3.64 ERA for the Braves.
Here is what Cardinals fans voted for:
Sonny Gray paired with Yamamoto is an excellent one-two punch for this 2024 club, and it's hard not to be thrilled with this outcome so far. The main downside here is that the Cardinals have now left themselves with about $8.5 million to spend on acquiring another starting pitcher and two relievers, so it looks like we'll be hitting the trade market a few times for the rest of the moves.
Gray is likely going to finish runner up to Gerrit Cole in American League Cy Young voting this year after posting a 2.79 ERA in 184 innings of work. He's been one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball for a long time now and is massively underrated, giving the Cardinals another excellent starter. The concern with Gray is his age, as he just turned 34 today and you never know how guys will age.
Fans' decision: Sign Sonny Gray for three years, $69 million ($8.5 million budget remaining).
I made the executive decision that the Cardinals need to trade for their number three starter based on the first two contracts we handed out, so that's the next agenda item that fans voted on.