Currently boasting a staff of Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, Steven Matz, and Dakota Hudson, the Cardinals were not predicted to be heavily involved in the free-agent starting pitcher market this offseason. Nevertheless, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is aware that, “a year from now, we know we’re going to need starting pitching,” per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Mozeliak added that the team has recognized that they will have to replace or re-sign four starters after the 2023 season.
Wainwright, who re-signed with St. Louis on a one-year, $17.5MM deal with incentives, has already stated that the 2023 season will be his last. Additionally, Mikolas, Flaherty, and Montgomery will all be free agents at the conclusion of the 2023 season. Matz and Hudson are the only starters with a contract for the 2024 season, with Matz signed through the 2025 season and Hudson a free agent after 2024. Goold reports that the Cardinals “plan to explore contract extensions with at least two of the starters who are unsigned beyond 2023,” with Mikolas being the most likely candidate.
The Cardinals are currently projected to enter the 2023 season with a payroll of $171.9MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. However, after the season, they are forecasted by Roster Resource to have only $94MM in commitments — giving them ample room to add to their team. Despite this financial freedom, Mozeliak notes that the Cardinals “have some young starters coming,” perhaps signaling a desire to avoid free agent starters in order to fit within the team’s budget.
Lefty Matthew Liberatore (the Cardinals’ No.4 Prospect) struggled in his Major League debut during the 2022 season, pitching to a 5.97 ERA in 34 2/3 innings with a 17.4 SO% and 11.2 BB%. He didn’t fare much better in his second season at Triple-A Memphis, pitching to a 5.17 ERA in 115 innings with a 23.5 SO% and 8.3 BB%. Nevertheless, Liberatore is only 23 years old and still has plenty of time to settle in at the Major League level. Additionally, Gordon Graceffo (Cardinals’ No.3 Prospect), Tink Hence (No.6), and Michael McGreevy (No.9) all are expected to make their debuts during the 2024 season, with Graceffo and McGreevy earning promotions to Double-A Springfield during the 2022 season, while Hence spent the entire season with Single-A Palm Beach.
More pitching-related items from around baseball….
- According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, the Red Sox do not view former All-Star Nathan Eovaldi as a top priority in their starting rotation search. Bradford adds that other teams are showing more interest in Eovaldi than the level currently displayed by Boston. The Mets were previously rumored to be in on Eovaldi, but their recent five-year, $75MM deal with Kodai Senga likely takes them out of the running for the soon-to-be 33-year-old. Eovaldi joined Boston during the 2018 season, with the righty helping them win the 2018 World Series. The Red Sox rewarded the starter with a four-year, $68MM contract that resulted in 407 2/3 innings of 4.15 ERA baseball, with a solid 24.4 SO% and strong 5.6 BB%. Despite being limited to 20 starts in 2022 due to low back inflammation and right shoulder inflammation, Eovaldi pitched to a 3.87 ERA in 109 1/3 innings with a 22.4 SO% and 4.4 BB%.
- In other St. Louis news, the Cardinals have reportedly entered the Carlos Rodon sweepstakes, per Jon Heyman of the New York Post. With Rodon seeking a seven-year deal and St. Louis having only two starters signed for the 2023 season, the Cards might look to join the bidding war for the two-time All-Star’s services. Rodon, 30, signed a two-year, $44MM deal with the Giants during the 2021 offseason, with an opt-out after the first year. Brushing aside injury concerns and making a career-high 31 starts, the southpaw pitched to a 2.88 ERA in 178 innings, with an absurd 33.4 SO% and strong 7.3 BB% before opting out of the contract at the end of the season. For his part, Mozeliak has remained coy, stating that while the team does “have some resources available,” but that he wouldn’t “believe many of the rumors you’re reading right now,” per Derrick Goold.