Ranking the 10 starting pitchers that the Cardinals should explore trading for

The Cardinals will likely swing a trade for one of their rotation upgrades this offseason. Which arms should they prioritize the most?

San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox
San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages
9 of 10

2. Shane Bieber

The top two names on this list just make way too much sense to me for the position the Cardinals find themselves in this offseason. Shane Bieber is not an ace anymore. He's probably a low-end number-two starter for a World Series contender at best. He's projected to earn just $12.2 million next year, which would be excellent value for a number three starter in the Cardinals rotation.

Let's say the Cardinals go out and spend $25 million a year for Aaron Nola on a 6-8 year contract and about $22 million a year on Sonny Gray for 3-4 years, which is about $47 million in spending this offseason. Based on recent payroll projections, that fits with the amount of spending the Cardinals can do this offseason, and should leave them with a bit more cash to spend as well. They can also free up an additional $17.6 million by trading or non-tendering O'Neill, Hudson, Edman, and Barnes this offseason.

With just one year of control remaining, his recent decline in stuff, and his $12.2 million salary for 2024, I imagine the Guardians will want to get whatever value they can for him. I could easily see Edman alone getting the deal done, but honestly, even something centered around O'Neill, Carlson, or Burleson may be strong enough.

Nola, Gray, and Bieber would be an excellent trio to headline the rotation in 2024. The Cardinals spent about $55 million on Montgomery, Wainwright, Flaherty, and Mikolas in 2023, so I don't think $57 million for three guys, especially when one is coming off the books after 2024, is a crazy idea even by their standards. This kind of deal also allows the Cardinals to hold onto their best assets, which keeps the upside of their lineup intact as well.

The Guardians are coming off of a disappointing season, are saying farewell to long-time manager Terry Francona, and have a wealth of young pitching ready to take over their rotation. Now is the time to move Bieber, and he fits right into what St. Louis should be looking for this offseason.