The St. Louis Cardinals have a clear problem that they need to address this offseason - finding a starting pitcher who can truly lead their staff. If we are being honest though, this has been a problem for years on end.
The club used to be known for its pitching. Think back to that 2013 range. Their roster seemed to be bursting with both young and veteran pitchers who could give them 6+ innings of quality work and then turn it over to a lockdown bullpen. Sports Illustrated even made their pitching staff the cover of one of their issues that year.
What happened to this club that used to turn out pitching in their sleep? What happened to the club that could identify the best possible mix of undervalued veterans and young studs that could carry a team to a World Series appearance? Can the club get back to those days?
Let me start with the latter. I do think the Cardinals can resemble this to an extent once again. It does not happen overnight though, and requires a lot of things to go right. But if the Cardinals are serious about their desire to add swing-and-miss stuff to their current rotation, continue to identify and either draft or acquire exciting young pitching (Tink Hence, Tekorah Roby, Cooper Hjerpe, etc.), and get back to being at the cutting edge of pitching development, they can regain that status in the league.
While I am sure we will talk more about that topic in the future, I do think it's fascinating to look at all of "the guys" that were supposed to or could have, topped the Cardinals rotation for years but for one reason or another, did not. Some of the names on this list were pure mistakes by the Cardinals' front office, parting with young talent and it blossoming elsewhere. Others though seemed like great bets at the time, but injuries or unforeseen development gaps derailed their career.
For as frustrating as this stretch has been for the Cardinals to not have a dude at the top of their rotation who can shove every fifth day (outside of a few-year resurgence from Adam Wainwright), what is even more frustrating is that they've had so many guys who could have been that. Honestly, after creating this list, it's almost more confusing and shocking that they haven't had multiple guys turn up as stud aces for years on end.