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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3. Jordan Montgomery

Traded by the Cardinals to the Rangers at the deadline, Jordan Montgomery has been flying under the radar as one of the best pitchers in baseball since June. Montgomery ranks 7th in baseball with a 3.12 ERA and now has a 1.73 ERA in four starts since joining Texas.

Some people seem to have forgotten how good Montgomery was for the Cardinals after his rough month of May. He had a sub-2.00 ERA in June and was great in July as well before being dealt to Texas. In his 32 starts as a Cardinal from 2022 to the 2023 deadline, Montgomery had a 3.31 ERA in 184.2 innings of work, exactly the kind of production they need in their rotation.

The trade was necessary for St. Louis. Holding onto an impending free agent when you're out of contention isn't good business, and they were able to net INF Thomas Saggase and RHP Tekoah Roby from the deal as well. Now maybe they can pull a Yankees from 2016 and resign Montgomery in the offseason.

There is obviously familiarity here, which may be helpful for St. Louis as they look to bring in so many new arms as well. Montgomery will likely get a big payday this offseason, but it seems like the industry continues to underrate how good he really is.

I would imagine Montgomery gets anywhere from $20 million to $25 million a year over five or six years. Something in the ballpark of a five-year, $110 million deal could bring Montgomery back to St. Louis. Even a five-year, $125 million deal is not an insane number to reach.

While I still think the Cardinals would need to bring in another high-end starter, Montgomery may be one of the better value players on the pitching market. Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Julio Urias could be at or north of a $30 million AAV on their next deal. On paper, you'd rather have one of those names on your team, but Montgomery could end up outpitching any of those guys and be had at a decent discount.

It feels less flashy to bring back a name you traded away, but Montgomery continues to pitch like one of the best in baseball and it's hard not to want him back in St. Louis.