Item #2: Second front-line starter
Who they should target: Sonny Gray, Tyler Glasnow, Jordan Montgomery, Eduardo Rodriguez
The Cardinals have to be extremely aggressive with the top two starters they acquire. They need a one-two punch they can rely on in October, but it's also part of building a strong regular season club as well. Having two guys you can rely on every fifth day to pitch at a high level takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the rotation, puts less milage on the bullpen, and helps the lineup have room to breathe and not feel like they have to score 8+ runs a game to win.
Sonny Gray feels like the perfect guy for this spot, as he has been one of the best pitchers in all of baseball the last two seasons and has been a top 15 pitcher in baseball since he came into the league. He'll be 34 before the start of the 2024 season, so regression is expected, but even so, he'll still be more than capable of being a number two starter. He's likely going to finish second in AL Cy Young voting this year, and was 54% above league average when it came to ERA+. Gray wants to be closer to Nashville and is looking for a short-term deal, so it seems like a perfect fit.
Glasnow would be an excellent addition for the Cardinals, and honestly, my perfect offseason has them signing their number one and two starters while trading for Glasnow as well (more on that in a future story). Glasnow has injury risk and a large $25 million salary for 2024, meaning the cost to acquire him should be significantly less than the talent he has.
In a contract year, Glasnow is going to want to prove he's worth a long-term deal, so I expect him to be on the field as often as possible. Even if you only expect 20-23 starts from him, that's still a massive upgrade to the rotation, and if he's healthy in October, he's a legitimate weapon against any offense.
A reunion with Montgomery could be in the cards, as he's continued his great form since being trade from St. Louis and has been a key contributor for the Rangers on their way to a potential World Series title. Rodriguez is another guy with World Series pedigree, and has been really good in Detroit and will be looking to cash in this offseason.