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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Kenta Maeda - Sighs

Kenta Maeda has spent time in both Los Angeles with the Dodgers and most recently in Minnesota with the Twins. He was just signed to a two-year, $24 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Detroit will pay him $14 million in 2024 and just $10 million in 2025. Both years are guaranteed. Between Maeda and Flaherty, Detroit has added some decent starting pitchers.

Maeda has a career 3.92 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.140 WHIP, and has struck out almost ten batters every nine innings. He missed the entire 2022 season due to Tommy John Surgery, so 2023 was his first year back after the procedure. He finished 2023 with a 4.23 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 1.169 WHIP, and a K rate of 27.3% in just 104.1 innings. His time with the Dodgers was very strong, and he finished second in Cy Young voting in 2020.

Most pitchers experience a decline in performance their first year back from Tommy John Surgery, but they also typically show a return to their prior form in their second year; however, Baseball Reference projects him to pitch 111 innings with a 4.46 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, and strike out just over nine batters per nine innings. Maeda is going to be thirty-six for the majority of next season, so he is on the wrong side of the pitching age curve.

I would imagine Maeda experiencing a semblance of his old form next year. While Baseball Reference expects him to regress, I would expect him to be at least as good as he was last year with Minnesota. Maeda's contract is comparable to Lynn's and Gibson's in both length and dollars. Given his ability to limit hard contact and walks, I would have preferred Maeda over at least Lance Lynn and possibly Kyle Gibson as well.