This offseason is shaping up to be an interesting one for the Cardinals. They’ve already expressed interest in both Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola, both of whom would give them a true ace in the hole for the rotation.
The Cardinals have the money to sign them both, and based on comments by Bill DeWitt III on how they want to make sure 2023 is a blip on the radar screen, I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll at least be able to land one of them.
To me, those are the best two options. Blake Snell would be a great fit too, but I see the most value in Gray and Nola, personally.
But as I mentioned last week, it’s going to be hard to get them both, given that the Cardinals will be bidding against the big boys such as the Phillies, Yankees, Dodgers, Padres, and others.
This means that the Cardinals may only be able to get one of them. Like I said, I think at least one of them will be signed, but getting both of them is a different story. In this piece, we’ll examine both Gray and Nola and which one makes the most sense should the Cardinals be able to land only one of them.
Gray had the second-best ERA in the American League this season, posting a 2.79 mark in 32 starts with the Twins. His showing against the Astros in the ALDS was poor, to say the least, but he pitched well against the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series.
Gray is also a strikeout machine, having punched out 183 batters during the regular season.
A case could be made that Gray makes more sense because of the way Nola pitched during the regular season. Nola won 12 games but posted an ERA of 4.46. Gray also would likely cost a little less than Nola because of his age and may only receive a three or four-year deal. But he’d instantly qualify as the team’s ace.
Now we’ll look at Nola. Sure, his regular season numbers weren’t good, but he’s been on point this postseason. He shut out the Marlins for seven innings in the Wild Card Series and gave up just two runs over 5.2 innings against the Braves in the NLDS.
He’s won both of those starts and owns a postseason ERA of 1.42. Nola has proven that he is more than capable of coming through in big games, which is something the Cardinals need.
Even with a bad ERA, Nola pitched 193.2 innings and recorded 202 strikeouts. He’s also a few years younger than Gray, so he might make more sense in that regard. But we’ll have to see how everything plays out this winter.