Why did the 2023 Cardinals lose over 90 games? It's pretty obvious. They didn't have the pitching required to compete. The Cardinals lacked not only top-end talent, but also depth pieces, and though they have significantly more pitching depth entering 2024, they ought to know by now that enough is never enough. Enter Nate Pearson.
Pearson was a staple in the Blue Jays top 30 prospect list after being selected in the first round of the 2017 draft. He debuted at four and climbed to the top spot prior to the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Pearson pitched well throughout the minors, even after missing significant time in 2018 and 2022 and missing all of 2020 due to the cancellation of minor league baseball. Pearson has never really received an opportunity to start at the major league level.
The Blue Jays used him mostly as a reliever in 2021 and then used him exclusively as a reliever in 2023. He hasn't been a great reliever thus far, with a career MLB ERA of 5.00 in 75.2 innings pitched. So, why am I advocating for the Cardinals to acquire him? It's a three-pronged argument. Pearson offers a high upside arm, the Cardinals need arms like his, and he will cost almost nothing.
Pearson has a higher ceiling than most depth options in the Cardinals' system. He has better stuff than Drew Rom and probably still has a higher ceiling than both Alex Kloffenstein and Sem Robberse. He has significant prospect pedigree, meaning that for multiple years, scouts unanimously considered him to be an elite talent with the potential to someday lead a rotation. Is he still that player? Probably not, but it's certainly worth a gamble, and that's because the Cardinals need it.
They rolled into 2023 relying on Dakota Hudson, Jake Woodford, and Connor Thomas to cover innings in their rotation. Suffice to say, that plan failed spectacularly. With new pitchers in the system thanks to deadline deals and an older stable of minor league arms, the Cardinals will have more options in 2024. However, if they learned anything from 2023, it should be that when it comes to starting pitching depth, enough is never enough. Even if he's not the elite talent many thought he could be, he's still worth a look. They should absolutely be giving him a few innings in Spring Training, and it's not like adding him to the Memphis rotation will displace a legitimate prospect. All of this is made even easier when the cost is considered. Pearson will cost almost nothing.
He's arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2024, meaning he's going to make very very little. Yet, some Jays fans on X (formerly Twitter) have publicly called for him to be non-tendered. He's now 27, and they no longer see him as a prospect. The Blue Jays have excellent pitching depth, including Ricky Tiedemann, one of the best arms in minor league baseball. Even if the Blue Jays don't cut Pearson, he's going to be cheap. Perhaps cash could get it done. It should also be mentioned that the Cardinals have a strong rapport with the Blue Jays, and they connected thrice at this year's deadline.
Should Pearson be one of the arms the Cardinals rely on for 25+ starts in 2024? No, absolutely not. Should he be one of the major acquisitions of the offseason? No way. But, should he be considered as a depth addition to the organization? Yes, absolutely he should be.