Even though my wife does most of the grocery shopping, I have learned that sometimes the plain label products are just as good and sometimes better than the name brand items. If we only need an item or two it doesn’t really matter but if we need to stock up then we spend a lot more money on those things that are store brands.
How does my pantry relate to the Cardinals? Well, when it relates to pitching the Cardinals’ cupboard is bare. We can’t just run in and grab a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk, we are going to need a cart. Not one of those little hand-held baskets but a cart. A big cart.
When we are on one of those shopping sprees we spend a lot more time looking at the ingredients rather than the name on the label. We are more interested in what is on the inside of the can than the pretty picture on the outside. The Cardinals are going to need to do the same.
We already know the name brands. Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Nola, and Sonny Gray are the ones we see advertised the most. What if they were on a shelf with all the other pitchers and none had names on them? Are we just paying for the name? Taking the label off of two pitchers, this is what we find on the inside.
Player A - Aaron Nola - Player “A’ is the name brand. We all want him. Nola is the consensus number-one free agent “get” in this year’s free-agent pool after Ohtani. He has excelled for nine years now and for the last three years, he has started 32 games each and every year. Talk about consistency. Every team with a need and the resources will be looking at signing this free agent.
Player B - Lucas Giolito - Surprised? Giolito over the last three years has started 31, 30, and 33 games. As you can see by the chart above his numbers are almost identical in these categories comparing them to Nola’s. As recently as 2021 he received votes for the Cy Young award.
When shopping for a can of corn or a pitcher if all things are equal I look at the price and how long the product will last.
According to Spotrac the market value for Aaron Nola will be somewhere near six years, $147 million. His average annual salary would be $24,515,244 and with all the teams needing pitching this might be low.
Lucas Giolito will be around four years with a total of $47.4 million or $11.8 million per year.
Looking at the price only, Lucas Giolito is the one I am putting into my cart since the value seems to be similar. I can get two of those and still have money left over.
I am also more inclined to lean into the shorter contract, especially for pitchers. Nola is now 30 years old. If he settles for a 6-year deal, at the end of his contract, he will be 36. Giolito is a year younger and would be 34 at the end of his contract. At 36 Nola should be a couple of years into his downward side of productivity. We should have level production from Giolito for all four of his.
I am not saying that if I had unlimited resources like the Mets, Padres, Yankees, and Dodgers the price would even matter. And to them, it probably won’t. What you have to ask is if the cupboard is so completely bare do you want to open the pantry door and see one box of Nola on the shelf or two plain label Giolitos and enough left over for some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?