The Cardinals need pitching in the worst way. That is really not a hot take.
You have seen all the free agent names and all the trade candidates that some think you be a good fit. There is one pitcher that no one is talking about but could be the best fit for the Cardinals if they want to take the chance.
The first thing I would do if I am looking for a pitcher is to look at the team that has one of the best reputations for drafting and developing pitchers in the last few years. If you aren’t good at something you might as well work with someone that is the best. Most MLB executives would agree that the Tampa Bay Rays fit that description.
They have pitching down to a science. Their secret is spelled out in an MLB article from 2021. If you could get anyone from this organization you already have a leg up. What if the Cardinals could get one of their first-round draft choices? The analysis of the player I am thinking about by MLB.com was glowing after he was picked:
“I'm stunned that (Player X) lasted this long because I think you could have argued for him going as early as No. 2 overall. His stuff is so advanced that he's more like a college pitcher than a high school one. (Player X) already has four solid pitches that could become plus pitches as his 6-foot-5 frame gets stronger. He has a tremendous feel for pitching -- and a lot of moxie. “
He was the 16th pick in the 2018 draft. He was picked just two spots after the pitcher that most writers in St. Louis seem to think is our number one trade target, Logan Gilbert. He was picked a few spots before Shane McClanahan who was the Rays’ second pick in the first round. That gives you a pretty good idea of the talent this pitcher has. MLB grades this player with a 60 fastball and a 60 curveball.
In the minor leagues with the Rays, he pitched 152 innings and had 150 strikeouts. Last year the opposing MLB batters had a .274 batting average against him. For comparison, Jack Flaherty had a .278, and Miles Mikolas had a .282 batting average against.
This is exactly the type of player the Cardinals are looking for and he is right under their nose. If he wasn’t already on our team, Matthew Liberatore is exactly the kind of player the Cardinal will be trying to make a deal for.
At the beginning of the year, it was thought he might be able to make the club out of spring training. That didn’t happen but in Memphis, he pitched 64 innings and had 84 strikeouts He came back to the majors and had almost the same number of innings (62) and half the strikeouts (46). If the Cardinals want a cost-controlled pitcher, with a first-round pedigree who can strike out 84 batters in a 64-inning stretch they should do everything they can to let his talent shine.