Jon Becker was the first to point this out today, but the AP has reported that Gray's three-year, $75 million deal is broken up as follows:
2024: $10 million
2025: $25 million
2026: $35 million
This is a significant development as the Cardinals are preparing for the Winter Meetings next week. The Gray signing seemed to rule them out from the free agent market outside of some small bullpen additions, and pursuing the trade market would have taken some creative moves to pull off bringing in another high-end arm.
Gray, Gibson, and Lynn combine for $32 million in salary for this upcoming season. This should put the Cardinals at about $30 million that they can still spend within their budget this offseason, and that number could grow by trading the likes of Tyler O'Neill ($5.5 million), Steven Matz ($12.5 million), and/or Dylan Carlson ($1.8 million).
It's been widely reported that the Cardinals were very interested in seeing how the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes played out, so perhaps they continue to see if they can compete for his services. John Mozeliak has also stated that they have not really explored the trade market yet, which was reportedly by design. Derrick Goold was on the "Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney" podcast and stated that St. Louis was hoping to make upgrades via free agency before the Winter Meetings and then explore the trade market.
Tyler Glasnow and Dylan Cease could be on the Cardinals' radar as the trade market begins to take shape, but it's also clear that they will be searching for bullpen upgrades via trade and free agency at the same time.
The added $15 million in payroll flexibility that was not publically known changes the game for St. Louis in a big way and seems to back up the notion around the industry that their offseason was far from over.
I don't think it's fair to assume they will make a significant addition to this rotation because of the money that is freed up, but I do think it's gone from a fun conversation point to a very real outcome for St. Louis. After the Gray signing, finding ways to make the money work for another top-end starter took a lot of creativity, but the Cardinals apparently decided to help with that puzzle by back-loading Gray's contract.
We'll for sure be talking more about the implications of paying Gray $35 million in 2026, but for right now, it's a really encouraging thing to see. Why? Because it means the Cardinals front office is serious about trying to fix things for 2024. How they continue to do so remains to be seen, but committing to paying Gray that much money in 2026 tells me the Cardinals mean business right now. Why else would this organization push that much money into a future season?
Stay tuned to Redbird Rants for continued converge as more news unfolds over the coming weeks. It sounds like the Cardinals have something up their sleeve, and we'll be here to cover it all.