For a while now, the fit between the St. Louis Cardinals and Sonny Gray almost seemed too perfect. According to Jon Heyman, league sources have told him that St. Louis and the right-hander are expected to agree to a deal today.
Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the deal is for three years, $75 million. Gray, 34, is coming off an incredible season in Minnesota, posting a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts for the Twins, finishing second in American League Cy Young voting in the process.
Gray has desired to live closer to home when choosing his next team, and St. Louis is one of the closest MLB cities to Nashville, Tennesse. It seemed like the Braves were their biggest competition here, but it appears they won that negotiation process. The Cardinals will lose their second-round pick for signing Gray since he had a qualifying offer attached to him. You can check out my reaction to the signing alongside Redbird Rants contributor Sandy McMillian on the Noot News podcast below.
Gray has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball for years now. He had a rough stint with the Yankees, particularly in 2018, which seemed to knock his profile nationally. He's been excellent in his stints with the Athletics, Reds, and Twins, and has a career 3.47 ERA. While the expectation should not be him repeating his 2023 performance, having a low 3.00 ERA and providing the Cardinals with a stable arm at the top of their rotation is what they are paying for.
Gray joins a rotation of Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, and freshly signed innings eaters Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. That five-man group is a sizeable upgrade from their disastrous 2023 rotation but leaves much to be desired. That's not a reflection on Gray at all but has more to do with the lack of a second front-line starter.
Matz showed a lot of promise in his return to the rotation after being demoted to the bullpen last year, posting a sub-3.00 ERA before landing on the IL. Injuries are a major concern with him, but if he can be a sub-4.00 ERA pitcher, that is a huge boost to the rotation. Mikolas had a down 2023 season but continues to eat a ton of innings and tends to be up and down from year to year. An "up" year from Mikolas would also mean a lot of this rotation.
Where fans will get upset is the idea that those other two starter additions are Gibson and Lynn, as both profile as number five type starters with this primary benefit being giving the Cardinals innings. That's no small thing. The Cardinals suffered greatly last year from a lack of innings, and even the simple fact they can have two guys get them through the fifth inning consistently can raise this team's floor a ton. Just look at this jarring statistic Brandon Kiley shared recently.
So where do the Cardinals go from here? They reportedly plan to add bullpen arms this offseason, so it remains to be seen whether or not that comes in free agency or the trade market. The fact that it's not even December yet tells me the Cardinals still have a lot of potential moves they can make, and could possibly even add another arm to this rotation.
They've been heavily linked to Yoshinobu Yamamoto from the Orix Buffaloes, and while the Gray signing makes that seem far less likely, I wouldn't rule it out until we have reporting that does so. The Cardinals have done a lot of leg work to get into the Yamamoto sweepstakes the last calendar year, and he begins meeting with teams this week.
The more likely path to adding another starter would be via trade though. Dylan Cease of the White Sox or Logan Gilbert of the Mariners offer cost-controlled options for multiple years, while Tyler Glasnow of the Rays would take less to acquire but carries a $25 million salary. Perhaps a deal with a team like the Marlins or Guardians could happen as well. I covered likely trade targets for the Cardinals recently on the site.
Again, it's only November, so I expect more moves from the Cardinals, especially with the Winter Meetings beginning next week. Stay tuned for continued coverage of the Gray deal and what it means for the rest of the Cardinals' offseason.