Wise or sighs: Did the Cardinals choose the right starting pitchers this offseason?

St. Louis set the free agent pitcher market when they signed both Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. Did they pick the right back-end starting pitchers compared to other free agents?

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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Michael Wacha - Sighs

The thirty-two-year-old Michael Wacha was signed to a one-year, $16 million deal with a second-year player option for an additional $16 million. Altogether, he could make $32 million in two years with the Kansas City Royals. Wacha figures to slot in right behind Cole Ragans for the Royals next year. Brady Singer could leapfrog him given a strong Spring Training showing.

Wacha pitched in 134.1 innings last year across 24 starts. He had a 3.22 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 3.89 FIP, and he struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings. For his career, he has a 3.96 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 1.292 WHIP, and has struck out 8.0 batters every nine innings. Wacha has only been voted to one All-Star Game (2015).

He pitched last year for the San Diego Padres, and he will be thirty-two for half of the 2024 season. He is significantly younger than both Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson, but he hasn't pitched nearly as many innings each season. Wacha had a tough couple of seasons in 2020 and 2021, but he has pitched very well these past few seasons, albeit in less than 135 innings each season.

Baseball-Reference projects Wacha to pitch 138 innings to the tune of a 3.85 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, and strike out a total of 126 batters. While you would like to see more innings out of Wacha, his projected and career statistics are admirable, especially for a back-end starting pitcher. His ERA is a whole point lower, and his strikeout rate is just above Gibson's and a bit below Lynn's.

I would have preferred him over either Lance Lynn or Kyle Gibson despite his higher price tag. Both Lynn and Gibson have team options, and Wacha's player option is less enticing to the Cardinals. He is significantly younger, though, so I wouldn't be opposed to him being on the roster for two or three years. Michael Wacha plus Lance Lynn or Kyle Gibson and then Sonny Gray would have made for a better offseason in my eyes.