The Cardinals have fallen into the same trap that cost them 2023

The Cardinals have already found themselves in a serious predicament just a week into spring training games, and they once again have fallen into the same old trap. Can they wiggle their way out of this one?

Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Different year, same story.

Once again, the Cardinals have fallen into a deadly trap. On Monday, Sonny Gray exited his start against the Nationals with right hamstring tightness.

While we don't know just how serious this injury is, one thing is for sure. The Cardinals gambled and lost.

Of the three starting pitching additions this offseason, Gray was the best one, and any time without him will hurt. While I don't expect this to take him out for the entire season, it's still bad news.

How did the Cardinals gamble, you ask? Well, instead of getting two frontline starters, which is what they needed, they settled for just one and picked up their other two starters off the scrap heap.

Depending on how long Gray is out, the Cardinals rotation is in trouble, and it's even weaker than it was going into last year.

The Cardinals gambled and lost

The current rotation consists of Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and either Zack Thompson or Matthew Liberatore. If the move to pull Gray was simply precautionary, then things should end up being okay. But if not, they've already fallen into the trap that cost them the 2023 season.

The Cardinals entered the year last year with Mikolas, Matz, Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, and Adam Wainwright. They had five starters in tow, so the holes were at least filled, right?

Wrong. They lacked a true ace at the top, and when Wainwright got hurt in spring, it continued the ugly trend of starting pitchers getting hurt in spring training. Without Wainwright, the Cardinals were forced to go with Jake Woodford, and that didn't end well.

Fortunately, there are two solid options still available in Montgomery and Blake Snell. But this is the exact same issue they faced last year. While they seemingly had enough starters to fill out the rotation, they lacked the quality of starters.

This is why they ultimately finished 71-91. And without Gray, the rotation is no better than it was last year. So, if Gray is out for a long period of time and the Cardinals don't go for Snell or Montgomery, they're going to be in trouble and will have another rocky season awaiting them.

Last year, they gambled and lost by not signing a true No. 1 starter. This year, they gambled and lost by not signing a second top-tier starter.

In my opinion, the Cardinals have no choice but to go with Snell. Even if they sign Montgomery, the rotation is almost identical to last year's, with Gibson and Lynn replacing Wainwright and Flaherty.

If it's not Snell, the Cardinals are setting themselves up for failure again.