The Cardinals hope to add three starters this offseason

The Cardinals have made no secret of their need to add starting pitching. It goes without saying, as a rotation that ranks 23rd with a 4.73 ERA has been a key factor in the Cards’ disappointing season. Deadline offers are sent by impending free agents Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flahertywhile Adam Wainwright retires at the end of the year.

With three members of their expected starting five either already or soon out, St. Louis is preparing to add plenty of replacements. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said yesterday that the club expected to bring in three starting pitchers next winter (relayed by’s John Denton).

This is not the first time Mozeliak has expressed this goal. The head of baseball operations indicated a desire for a trio of starters last month. At the time, he left open the possibility that he could get some of them at the trade deadline.

The Cards did follow through on their goal of adding upper minor pitching. Left Drew Rome, who has spent the entire season in Triple-A, returned from Baltimore in the Flaherty deal. Double-A right Tekoah Roby was arguably the most talented prospect the Cards received in the trade that sent Montgomery and Chris Stratton in Texas. Rights Adam Klofenstein and Neither did Roberts — each of whom was acquired by the Blue Jays for Jordan Hicks — were assigned to Triple-A.

Since none of those pitchers have made their MLB debuts yet, it appears the Cards aren’t dealing any of them in next year’s starting five. Mozeliak admitted that the front office overestimated the depth of the rotation coming into this season, and since then strengthening the upper levels of the minors has been a clear priority.

The only pitcher who seems assured of a rotation job on Opening Day is Miles Mikolas. The right-hander is having another solid season, pitching to a 4.27 ERA over 26 starts. He’s not unstoppable, but he’s a top-notch offensive hitter and has been a source of middle-of-the-rotation innings for five seasons in St. Louis.

Stephen Mudge seemed to have turned a corner after a brief relegation. Since returning to the rotation, the southpaw has worked to a 1.86 ERA while blazing over a quarter of opponents with an excellent 4.6% walk rate in seven starts. It was Matz’s best stretch as a Cardinal — until he was diagnosed with a lat strain that could end his season. The recent strong run likely gives Matz an inside track to a rotation spot next spring, though it’s a small enough sample that his hold on a job may be tenuous.

Since the deadline, St. Louis has had a rotation of appearances Matthew Liberatore and Dakota Hudson. Liberatore, a former top prospect, had a strong season in Triple-A, but hasn’t carried over against big leaguers. Over 45 2/3 MLB frames this year, he carries a 5.72 ERA with a well below average 14.4% strikeout rate. Still only 23 with one more minor league option remaining, Liberatore is in no danger of losing his roster spot. He’ll get another eight or nine starts, but he hasn’t cemented his power into a ’24 rotation job.

Hudson is not a lock to be on next year’s roster. The sinkerballer is playing this season with an arbitration salary of $2.65 million. He would be due a modest raise in that amount if St. Louis offered him a contract. Hudson has a 4.31 ERA in 31 1/3 MLB innings, starting three of nine appearances. He worked out of the rotation with Triple-A Memphis, posting a 6.00 ERA with a modest 17.3% strikeout rate.

Matz’s injury cleared a rotation spot for the former first-round pick Zach Thomson. The 25-year-old lefty has worked almost exclusively in relief at the major league level. His numbers in that capacity — 2.59 ERA, 24.9% strikeout rate, 51.3% groundout rate through 59 2/3 career innings — are impressive. However, Thompson struggled mightily when the Cards optioned him to work out of the Triple-A rotation. Over 34 1/3 frames with Memphis, he was tagged for an 8.65 ERA while struggling to find the strike zone.

Between Liberatore, Thompson and some upper minor arms — Rom and Connor Thomas could have the upper hand since he’s already on the 40-man roster — St. Louis has a number of testable pitchers they can evaluate over the next seven weeks. It’s hard to imagine anyone from this group staking a solid claim to a starting rotation spot, though they can at least put themselves in line for a depth job that will inevitably come up throughout the year. .

Once the offseason arrives, Mozeliak and his staff will begin scouting outside targets. The upcoming free agent class is heavy. Beyond Shohei Ohtaniinclude some names in the market Blake SnellNPB star Yoshinobu YamamotoMontgomery, Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, Lucas Giolitopossible Eduardo Rodriguez and Seth Lugo (where everyone seems ready to drop player options in their bids) and Michael Lorenz. Veterans love it Marcus Stroman (which also has player choice), James Paxton and Kenta Maeda they could be limited to short-term contracts based on their age/injury history, but they are doing well this season.

St. Louis has never paid more than $80M in a free agent deal for a pitcher. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Cards set a new mark in this regard next winter. Roster Resource estimates their 2024 salary cap hit at around $112 million, well below this year’s Opening Day figure of $177 million. Arbitration increases for Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman, Ryan Helsley and Dylan Carlson they would add another $15-20M to that projected ledger, but that leaves plenty of flexibility to attack free agency.

That’s before you consider trades to potentially clear some salary cap room while bringing back rotation help. Helsley, Giovanni Gallegos and Carlson have all been in rumors together this summer. St. Louis ended up keeping essentially everyone who was vetted beyond this season, but could certainly reopen trade talks for those players over the winter. The surplus that fueled speculation about a deal with Carlson has yet to be resolved. It looks likely to be a popular topic of commercial attention once again.

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