One perceived flaw of the 2023 Cardinals' rotation may end up being a strength for the group
The St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation continues to be the club's biggest question mark with Opening Day right around the corner. The Cardinals' rotation consists of five starters who were on their roster last year, but after struggling through injuries most of 2023, Jack Flaherty and Steven Matz almost feel like new additions to this club.
A full season of Jordan Montgomery should bode well for this team. His acquisition at the trade deadline, alongside Jose Quintana, helped stabilize a rotation that had been in shambles most of the year. It's easy to forget that for a long stretch, the Cardinals relied on Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, Andre Pallante, Jordan Hicks, and whoever could provide spot starts to get the team through the summer. Injuries will occur, as they do with every rotation, but this group is already set up better than they were last season.
Outside of injury concerns and the lack of multiple elite arms to lead the rotation, there has been one flaw pointed out about this rotation that I actually think will play in the Cardinals' favor over the course of the 2023 season.
Contract years actually play in the favor of the Cardinals' rotation
Even after the club extended Mikolas on Friday, there is still concern about the Cardinals having three rotation spots opening in 2024. Adam Wainwright is set to retire after the 2023 season, while Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty will be hitting the free-agent market, barring any extensions prior to the season-ending.
Yes, this creates a lot of uncertainty for 2024, and that does raise some concerns. But I also think it may work in the favor of the 2023 club more than anyone has given them credit for.
Wainwright, despite his velocity dip that concerns me a lot, is going to do everything in his power to go out on top this year. You better believe he will leave it all out on the field. Flaherty will be looking to rebound and show that he really is a front-line starter in today's game and surely wants to get a contract that reflects that. Montgomery won't be expecting the kind of numbers Flaherty will get, but his 2023 performance will heavily impact the AAV and amount of years they can get as well.
All of these guys come into each season motivated to perform, but this added incentive and motivation should only propel them further in their performance this year. I doubt any of them have it on their mind when they are on the mound, but you better believe it motivates them to put that extra rep in, focus in even more on their film study, and take extra care of their rest and recovery process.
John Mozeliak and the rest of the front office will have a lot to sort out this winter when it comes to reshaping the rotation, but I am sure they are hoping for big years out of each of the incumbent rotation members. This rotation is motivated in so many ways to be better than people expect from them, and I think they will deliver on that. Do they still need an upgrade at the top? Absolutely. But this five-man group should be really solid throughout the regular season.