The pitching moves the Cardinals regret the most happened before this offseason

For all the criticism the Cardinals got this offseason for their pitching moves, they've worked thus far. It's their returning arms that have been troubling.
Apr 26, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas (39)
Apr 26, 2024; New York City, New York, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Miles Mikolas (39) / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals received a lot of criticism this offseason for the moves they made to revamp their pitching staff.

Most people liked the Sonny Gray signing, although there were a lot of Cardinals fans who did not believe in Gray as a front-line starter. The Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson signings were met with frustration and confusion, as fans and media desired to see the Cardinals go out and get two guys to lead their rotation. Although I was also confused by those decisions, I did see how their quality starts would drastically improve this rotation.

On the bullpen side of things, I think most fans were at least content with what the Cardinals did, but I think few were expecting the top-end production the club has received so far. Andrew Kittredge has been a huge addition to the club, even after many lamented the Cardinals trading another outfielder in Richie Palacios. Keynan Middleton has been on the injured list to begin the year but figures to bring another high-leverage arm to their mix. Nick Robertson and Ryan Fernandez have been quality middle-innings arms thus far as well.

So for all of the flack the Cardinals have gotten for their pitching upgrades this offseason, they've all been off to a great start to their 2024 campaigns. It's actually the moves the Cardinals have made in prior offseasons that still haunts them.

Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, and Giovanny Gallegos have been the biggest issues for the Cardinals pitching staff

There was plenty of skepticism around these three arms heading into the season, but it's interesting how as the Cardinals' offseason pitching moves have all panned out so far, it's the returning arms that continue to give them trouble.

Miles Mikolas to me is another case of the organization giving a player an extension when they do not have to, and it is totally coming back to bite them. The Cardinals had only one starting pitcher under contract for 2024 during Spring Training last year and decided to lock up Miles Mikolas to give them some more certainty over the next few years. Well, they certainly have him in their rotation, but the production just has not been there.

Coming off a 4.78 ERA in 2023 with diminishing stuff, it's been worse thus far in 2024, with a 5.68 ERA in his 7 starts for St. Louis. While there's been a few good starts mixed in there, $16 million per year for Mikolas in 2024 and 2025 does not seem like the wisest use of money.

The Cardinals may have been nervous about Mikolas following up his 2022 All-Star campaign with another strong performance in 2023 and getting a larger number in free agency, but in all likelihood, Mikolas' price was not going to get much higher than what they signed him for.

I also never really liked the argument that it was going to be impossible to acquire four starting pitchers this offseason. Even taking Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson out of the picture, 16 different starting pitchers signed one-year deals this past winter, including the likes of Michael Lorenzen, Jakob Junis, Alex Wood, James Paxton, Frankie Montas, Jack Flaherty, Luis Severino, and Wade Miley, and none of those guys I listed signed for a higher salary than Mikolas did, who they also have to pay in 2025 as well.

But the Cardinals made their bed with the Mikolas deal during Spring Training, and now have to figure out how to make the best of it. I'm not saying Mikolas can't rebound and be a competent fifth starting in the Cardinals rotation, but it's clear they could have gotten a lot more creative and brought in a higher-quality option.

When it comes to Steven Matz and Giovanny Gallegos, their contracts really weren't bad bets, so I don't blame the Cardinals for making those moves originally. Gallegos especially, as he was one of the best relievers in all of baseball from 2019-2022, and the Cardinals were able to get him on a really affordable contract for 2023-2024 with a club option for 2025.

While the Steven Matz signing has now worked out thus far in St. Louis, a four-year, $44 million for Matz prior to the 2022 season was not a bad contract at all. Matz made $8 million and $10 million during the first two years of his contract and is only slated to make $12 million in 2024 and 2025, which if you go and look at the AAV of starting pitchers signed this past offseason, puts him on the lowest end of the spectrum. Still, the signing thus far has been a bust.

I don't blame the Cardinals for sticking with Matz in the rotation to start this year. Matz was excellent as a starter when he returned to the rotation last season after a brief stint in the bullpen, and while injuries have caught up to him again, I get taking the risk on him. The frustrating part for fans is that the risk they took on Matz is compounded when someone like Mikolas cannot get back on track either.

John Mozeliak and the Cardinals front office deserve a lot of criticism. They have let go of a lot of struggling players in recent years who have gone on to perform elsewhere. They have made poor free-agent signings and trades at times. The player development, specifically on the pitching side of things, has been lacking in recent seasons. All of those are fair criticisms and have put all of the Cardinals' leadership on the hot seat.

And yet, I do think it's fair to give them their flowers for a productive offseason from a pitching acquisition standpoint. Sure, the moves lose a lot of their shine when you realize that the same front office that made these great acquisitions is the same group that created the mess they are in, but I am impressed thus far with the moves they made from the 2023 Trade Deadline through the beginning of the season, even if they could have done more.