The Cards have a solid bullpen, headlined by closer Ryan Helsley, who notched 29 saves last year, and setup guy Giovanny Gallegos. Fireballer Jordan Hicks has devastating stuff and could be a monster if he can improve his control.
The real question for the team in 2023 is starting pitching. The only starter the team signed in the offseason is long-time Cards veteran Adam Wainwright. They also lost the services of Jose Quintana, who was a productive starter for the team last year.
The projected rotation of Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, and Steven Matz does not exactly strike fear in the hearts of opponents and has numerous question marks.
How much can Wainwright, who will be 42 in August, really contribute? He will begin the year on the IL, and he seemed to break down a bit at the end of last year, which he attributed to mechanics but may have been related to his advanced age. He never ceases to surprise me, but it is risky to expect the same level of performance he showed in the first half of last year, let alone for an entire season. To start the season, he will likely be replaced by Jake Woodford in the rotation.
Flaherty has shown signs of top-of-the-rotation stuff but has been inconsistent even when he manages to stay on the field. He has also not been very good this spring. Mikolas is probably a third starter on most good teams. I am OK with his recent contract extension, but he is not an ace. Like Flaherty, Matz was hurt last year, and Montgomery started strong after arriving from the Yankees but is probably also in that three to four or five range as a starter.
There is some talent on the farm but it doesn’t appear that any of those young arms are ready to start in the majors.
The Cardinals could make a move at the trade deadline, but it is not clear that any potential No. 1’s or No. 2’s will be available, let alone for what the Cards are willing to offer. The team certainly doesn’t need another 4 or 5 in its rotation. Even assuming a desirable pitcher is available, after losing Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Randy Arozarena in recent years via trade the team may be reluctant to part with the prospects necessary to acquire a top starter.