5. Trade for another high-leverage arm using Tyler O'Neill
After signing Nola, Gray, and Matsui, as well as trading for Bieber, the Cardinals have pretty much spent all of that budget room I forecasted at the beginning, and some of that budget room baked in the idea of trading away the expected $5.5 million salary O'Neill is set to have.
I touched on this on Friday, but O'Neill still holds value across the league. Even though he only played in 72 games last year, his defense, base running, and league-average bat made him worth about $6.5 million. If he can even play in 100-120 games, and/or recapture some of his production offensively, he's going to outperform his arbitration number in 2024.
Even so, it's for the best that the Cardinals move on from O'Neill this offseason, but they should do so in a trade where they can maximize the value that he does still have. I debated between trades with teams like the Guardians and Marlins but eventually landed on a reunion with the Seattle Mariners.
Everyone talks about the Cardinals and Mariners linking up for a trade with their young arms and young bats, but I just do not see a deal happening with the more valuable assets. Gilbert is going to cost a Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan-type of package, and a guy like Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller would a be solid addition, but giving up less for Bieber makes more sense.
Still, the Mariners will want to upgrade their offense this offseason, and I could see a deal happening with O'Neill where the Cardinals can bring in a relief pitching with control while the Mariners try to see if O'Neill can rebound in a contract year.
I ended up landing on right-handed reliever Prelander Berroa, who made his MLB debut this year at age 23 and has some electric stuff. In 43 minor league games this year, he posted a 2.89 ERA in 65.1 innings with 101 strikeouts. While he's only thrown 1.2 big league innings so far, his stuff is undeniable and would provide the Cardinals with a fifth legit arm in their bullpen, and he would have six years of club control remaining as well.
With all of the money they would be spending this offseason, it makes a lot of sense to try and bet on the upside with a guy like Berroa, who could emerge as an 8th or 9th-inning guy at some point but starts out as a 6th inning guy with closer like stuff. O'Neill may go on and have a huge bounce-back season with Seattle, but it's a risk I think the Cardinals need to take at this point.