Ranking the likeliest free agent starting pitching fits for the St. Louis Cardinals

There are a lot of starting pitchers being linked to the Cardinals in free agency, but which ones are the likeliest fits?
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Between now and whenever the St. Louis Cardinals wrap up the offseason moves they make, we are going to see lots of rumors and speculation about who they may be targeting to fill their rotation voids. There is not much chatter on what the trade market will look like this offseason yet, but names are beginning to surface among MLB insiders.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the Cardinals' "wishlist" being Julio Urias, Aaron Nola, and Blake Snell. Katie Woo of The Athletic also linked them to Nola and Snell but felt like Sonny Gray was a better fit for St. Louis than Julio Urias. FanSided's own MLB Insider Robert Murray felt like Nola, Urias, and Snell were unlikely for the Cardinals, but said to watch a reunion with Jordan Montgomery.

If you keep looking around the industry, names like Lucas Giolito, Eduardo Rodriguez, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and Shota Imanaga pop up for St. Louis as well. This free-agent market may lack a true top-end starter like Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom, or Justin Verlander from years past, but it is rich low-end number one, high-end number two, and plenty of number three starters. The Cardinals will have plenty of options they can pursue. The real question becomes which starters are the best fit for them.

This ranking will be based on who I believe the Cardinals are most likely to target, not necessarily who I think they should prioritize. I left out lower-end starters that project to be back-of-the-rotation as well as guys bouncing back from injuries which are likely to take "prove it deals". I also did not include Shohei Ohtani, as he was never really an option for the Cardinals anyway, and now that his future as a starter is in question, there's a zero chance they pursue him with so many pitching needs that they need to fill.

This list deals with the "top two tiers" of the market, those front-line starters and then more traditional number two or three starters. I believe the Cardinals may end up signing two starters from this list, so don't take the top guys on this ranking to be the guy they want to be their number-one starter. There is a lot that needs to shake out.

Ranking the likeliest free agent starting pitcher fits for the Cardinals