The Milwaukee Brewers threw a wrench into the free agent market by non-tendering Brandon Woodruff, who is expected to miss the 2024 season with a shoulder injury. Although Woodruff won’t be available next year and is eligible for free agency after 2025, the pitching-needy St. Louis Cardinals should get their hands on him for two seasons down the road.
Woodruff’s stats should have the Cardinals salivating. He has elite strikeout numbers, which the Cardinals are in desperate need of. He has fanned 29.7% of opposing batters since 2018 and has a 12.7% swinging strike rate and a 33.2% chase rate. Woodruff also possesses an excellent 2.98 ERA in that span.
The Cardinals rotation in 2025 is impossible to predict, but Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy and Tink Hence are three pitchers currently in the farm system who could be a part of it. Regardless of whom it contains, Woodruff would likely be the staff ace.
If the Cardinals were to sign Woodruff, though, they might be more limited in whom they could sign for 2024. The front office would need to take a long look at the roster and determine if it’s worth passing on some other free agents who would be able to help the Cardinals immediately. The team's lineup is another concern, as Paul Goldschmidt is eligible to be a free agent after 2024. Despite that, the Cardinals have a strong core of young hitters who could take leaps in 2024 and be poised for a strong following year.
Woodruff would likely come at a reduced price given the fact that he will miss 2024 and be a free agent after 2025. A contract for what would essentially be a one-year "prove it" deal wouldn't be especially risky and might still allow the Cardinals to sign a second-tier free agent, such as Sonny Gray.
Woodruff has had trouble staying healthy in his career, but with this being his first shoulder injury, he shouldn't elicit a ton of worry. If Woodruff is willing to sign a team-friendly deal, the Cardinals could have a pitcher with more upside than anyone in the 2024 free agent market.