The Cardinals could have had any of these 5 aces but passed for various reasons
The St. Louis Cardinals' most glaring weakness entering the 2023 season is the lack of a true ace at the top of their rotation. Jack Flaherty could end up filling that void seamlessly if he gets back to his 2019 form, but outside of that, they really don't have anyone who can step up and go toe to toe with the best in the game on a consistent basis.
An argument can easily be made that even if Flaherty is that guy, today's game requires at least two "aces" in your hand in order to go far in October. Think of the last five teams to win the World Series. The Astros had Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez, the Braves had Max Fried and Charlie Morton, the Dodgers had Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, the Nationals had Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, and the Red Sox had Chris Sale and David Price. You need top-end pitching to win in October.
What may hurt even more when looking at that glaring need that the Cardinals have is that they've had multiple opportunities to improve that area, and either chose to pass on pulling the trigger or gave up potential aces in pursuit of other things.
To be fair, the Cardinals have had arms like Flaherty, Alex Reyes, and Carlos Martinez that showed all of the signs of guys who would lead their rotation for years to come, but each of them had injuries derail their careers, or at least put bumps in it in the case of Flaherty. Still though, for an organization that tends to make the right moves, it's hard to not be critical of their misses here.
Let's look at five different front-line starters the Cardinals had a chance to acquire, or keep on their roster, that would have been their #1 starter in 2023 had they made the right decision.