2. Sign Sonny Gray
I love the idea of Sonny Gray coming to St. Louis. He's not an ace, but he can certainly pitch like one when needed, and a certain World Series champion just proved having guys like that in your rotation can win you a championship.
The Texas Rangers were just crowned the 2023 World Series Champions on the backs of Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery. Sure, they had Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, but deGrom did not throw a single pitch in the postseason and Scherzer had a small impact on their chances.
No one would have called Eovaldi or Montgomery number one or number two starters before the season, but they had the stuff to pitch up to that and did so what things mattered the most. Are they viewed as number two starters now? Probably. But they are not the classic front-line starters we tend to think about.
Sonny Gray was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in 2023, making 32 starts during the year with a 2.79 ERA and 2.83 FIP over 184 innings of work. Gray is set to finish second in Cy Young voting in the American League and has been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball since debuting in 2013.
Regression is likely in some way shape or form. He'll be 34 in 2023 and was truly pitching like an ace for the entire season, and the Cardinals should not sign him and expect him to be that good again. But banking on Gray to be your number two starter in 2024 feels like a really good bet.
Gray's 2023 season was worth $42.3 million according to FanGraphs' "dollars" stat, which converts a player's WAR into an expected free agent value. Gray will likely be commanding something in the $20m-$24m price range for three years this offseason. That means if Gray is even half as good as he was in 2023, he'll be worth the contract he is getting. Sign me up for that!
Remember, all of these moves are linked together. One of the concerns with Gray is that he doesn't go deep into games, and the potential for regression. Well, with Aaron Nola now leading the staff, the Cardinals have an innings eater at the top-of-the-rotation and back-end of the rotation in Nola and Mikolas, which allows them to go after a guy like Gray who may only give them five to six innings, but they'll be five to six innings where he allows two runs or less most times out.