Cardinals sign Sonny Gray
The Cardinals' biggest move in the offseason was signing Sonny Gray, the runner-up in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2023, to a three-year, $75 million contract. With the Minnesota Twins, Gray had a sterling 2.79 ERA and led the major leagues with a 2.83 FIP. Debate rages on about whether Gray qualifies as an ace, but this writer falls on the affirmative side of that.
Gray is another pitcher who utilizes the sweeper, and it's a good one. In 2023, he threw it 576 times and recorded an opposing batting average of .097. He actually added velocity to his fastball last season, a rare feat for a pitcher in his 30s, but the bigger story is the adjustment he made to his repertoire. In addition to leaning on his sweeper more heavily, Gray attacked left-handers with his curveball and changeup more often and increased the use of his cutter and sinker against right-handers.
There is a bit of concern in Gray's profile given that opponents' contact rate and hard-hit rate were similar to 2022, where he still had a strong 3.08 ERA, which likely means that some good fortune smiled upon Gray last season. One should also account for potential age-related decline as he enters his age-34 season.
These are small worries, and the bottom line is that the Cardinals were able to grab one of the best pitchers on the market for the 2024 season. Gray should be able to function as the ace the Cardinals have been missing since Jack Flaherty in the second half of 2019.