Okay Cardinals, Now What?

It certainly appears the Cardinals are tired of being cornered about the rotation. Once Aaron Nola signed on the dotted line in his return to Philadelphia, St. Louis was firmly on the clock but doubt anyone predicted the Lance Lynn reunion on your bingo card. Add in the Kyle Gibson move, and the Birds on the Bat are older for sure and possibly better depending on how you wrap your head around it. If you are in the boat of subtracting a Hudson plus Woodford, the recent additions only make sense if you are sure a true ace is on the way.

In Mo We Trust bumper stickers are not hot off the press just yet, but the Cards announced firmly that they understand innings and strikeouts matter. Say what you want about Lynn and Gibson, but the numbers speak loudly when you peel back the outside layers. Lynn rebounded nicely after getting away from the South side of Chicago and may have been in line for a better deal if not for his lone Dodgers playoff start. He will want to put the third inning against Arizona behind him as soon as possible, and St. Louis better pray that Busch cuts down on the homers.

Most of the hope for a quick NL Central recovery comes in two separate but equal equations. No matter how you squint, the Cardinals are desperately hoping Gibson and Lynn continue to thrive closer to 40 and improve on their metrics under the Arch. The expanded staff including a future Hall of Famer in Yadier Molina couldn’t have hurt in the negotiations, but St. Louis turning back the clock was not the opening to free agency many had envisioned.

That leads to the elephant in the room. Even during the press conference, Mo gave off the appearance that he knew something but wasn’t at liberty to share just yet. Speculation can be a dangerous thing but Gibson even after his stay in Baltimore, has to be at best number two in a pecking order that looks mighty similar across the board. Miles will have the opportunity as will Matz when healthy to justify a pack of number 2 & 3 starters but does that move the needle enough?

Gone are the days of being able to take the fifth spot in the rotation and turn it over to the next man up. The Cards like the rest of baseball no longer can afford to let competition dictate what is a much tougher environment now with the adjusted schedule. While it does put more pressure on Memphis as well as a possible long man in the pen, St. Louis can’t stop until the most important arm has signed on the dotted line.

Whether thru trade or opening up the cash vault, the next ace isn’t on the 40 man roster or anywhere in the prospect rankings. A future top arm or two might still be in the pipeline, but 2024 will be dictated by the next press conference. With the Winter Meetings right around the corner, there hasn’t been this important a moment for the pitching staff since a fresh-faced Adam Wainwright was stolen from the Braves. Nola was taken off the board first, but it didn’t sound as if he was the main target or an offer was ever made.

That’s begs the question then – where have the Cardinals been focusing most of the attention? It is too easy to say Japan and stop there but take a look at the pending rotation. Three RHP and Matz line up where you can make the case for a southpaw at the top or is that where Matz fits better squarely in the middle. Being picky, thrifty or even cheap when shopping for gifts might upset your family, but this time around all previous missteps must be tossed out the window.

St. Louis missed on Price a couple of times, Lester the first time, and Blake Snell wasn’t even in the discussion but could be now. The Cy Young winner adds plenty to the discussion, not just in strikeouts but the ability to flat-out dominate. He would be quite expensive and has maybe not red flags attached but certainly a couple of yellow ones. Jordan Montgomery is the other known quantity from the left side that only made himself more money with the World Champions but does he want to return?

Personally, the pull of attracting talent from Japan as well as Korea outweighs the risks hands down and even provides the best chance of getting back to October. In order to compete every year, draft picks matter as well so Snell and a few other top arms would be extra costly especially when St. Louis is picking higher than anyone who follows the team wants to see again. The names are important and will be spotlighted next week in great detail so keep warm out there Cardinal Nation, the moves have only just begun!

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