The Cardinals entered the offseason looking for three new starting pitchers, and that goal has already been accomplished with the signings of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson. To this end, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated that the club has done a lot of the heavy lifting on its efforts to upgrade the rotation, yet he didn’t rule out more additions.
“We feel like we have a strong five right now,” Mozeliak told Gregg Palermo of Spectrum News. “We feel like we have three or four guys that could give us depth throughout the season as well, so it’s not like a front-line priority but you never say never because something may pop up and make sense.”
In discussing the club’s tactics as a whole, Mozeliak said “we were very aggressive in the free agent market which was strategic. We did not think we were going to be able to acquire what we were looking for via trade, at least where we didn’t feel like we were going to give up something that we were comfortable with, and so now that we do have some starting pitching we are going to be looking at things for our bullpen and be open-minded because there could be something that we haven’t thought about.”
Technically, St. Louis now has a rotation surplus given all of the younger arms behind the projected starting five of Gray, Lynn, Gibson, Miles Mikolas, and Steven Matz. It isn’t to say that the Cardinals are necessarily itching to deal from their starting depth since the team very likely wants to have as much depth as possible on hand to withstand another spate of injuries, not to mention the fact that only Gray had a clear-cut quality season in 2023.
However, it does make sense that the Cardinals would be open to moving one or two of their younger arms if it means bringing in more top-of-the-rotation help. In addition to their interest in White Sox starter Dylan Cease, the Cards have “discussed internally what a potential trade for Tampa Bay ace Tyler Glasnow would look like,” Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes.
This isn’t really surprising news given that front offices routinely consider scores of free agents and trade candidates, and it seems similarly likely that the Cardinals probably at least checked in with the Rays about Glasnow as a matter of due diligence. Perhaps most notably, Goold made specific mention that the Cardinals were weighing how Glasnow’s $25MM salary for 2024 would fit their payroll picture, which is currently projected to be slightly above their $178MM payroll from 2023.
While the Rays have stated they are comfortable carrying a larger payroll than usual for 2024, the general feeling is that Tampa will still try to move some salaries between now and Opening Day. This could manifest itself as trades of other players (i.e. Harold Ramirez, Manuel Margot, or maybe even Randy Arozarena) rather than Glasnow, yet the right-hander’s $25MM salary is easily the highest on Tampa Bay’s roster, and he isn’t seen as a long-term fixture given that Glasnow is eligible for free agency next winter. This short-term appeal makes Glasnow an interesting fit for many teams, including St. Louis if the Cardinals are okay with a one-year payroll bump, or if they look to shed some salaries themselves either as part of a Glasnow trade, or in other deals.
Turning to the bullpen, Jordan Hicks and Yuki Matsui are a couple of the names already reported as players of interest for the Cardinals, and Goold adds Phil Maton as another target. Maton has been an effective workhorse out of the Astros pen over the last two seasons, posting a 3.42 ERA and spectacular soft-contact numbers over 135 appearances and 131 2/3 regular-season innings. A broken pinkie finger kept Maton from participating in Houston’s World Series run in 2022, but he has an outstanding playoff resume nonetheless, with an 0.83 ERA over 21 2/3 career postseason innings.
Maton (who turns 31 in March) went to high school in Chatham, Illinois, around a 90-minute drive away from St. Louis. As Goold notes, geography also played a factor in the signings of Gray and Gibson, so the Cardinals might look to continue this trend to lure another semi-local product in Maton. There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about Maton’s market to date, yet the relief pitching market as a whole hasn’t really gotten cooking, as teams have been primarily first focusing on starters.