The offseason is off and running. The Cardinals have move swiftly to address their starting rotation problems. They started off by signing Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson before capping it off with Sonny Gray last week.
This is probably the most active I’ve ever seen the Cardinals in an offseason in my lifetime. While not all three of the signings necessarily move the needle, the Gray signing certainly does, and I’ve never seen the Cardinals so aggressive to the point where they made three signings before the Winter Meetings.
In this piece, I’ll give some of my thoughts on the Cardinals offseason so far and what I expect to take place at the Winter Meetings this week.
Overall, I’m satisfied by what the Cardinals have done. They knew what they had to do, which was address the leaky starting rotation. They went out and got three veteran guys who can give you innings, something they lacked in 2023. They even have their ace now, which gives them a better chance to win games in the postseason.
But does that mean that I agree with everything the Cardinals have done? No.
Despite signing their ace, I don’t see the Cardinals as a World Series contender at this moment. Lynn and Gibson are both well past their primes and are not guys you necessarily want starting playoff games. Gray can go up against Zack Wheeler if the Cardinals face the Phillies in a playoff series and match him pitch for pitch. But who’s going to counter against Aaron Nola?
The Cardinals really needed to go out and get two frontline starters, meaning instead of signing both Gibson and Lynn, they should have chosen one or the other and decided to go after somebody like Shane Bieber or Dylan Cease in a trade.
Only then would the Cardinals be true World Series contenders, as most teams that make deep runs in the playoffs have at least two frontline guys. The Cardinals only have one.
There is still time for them to make a trade and surprise us, but I’m afraid that they view their rotation as set. Don’t get me wrong, the Cardinals are in a much better spot than they were at the end of the season, or even the beginning. But they still aren’t the elite force they need to be in order to get back to the World Series.
In my view, this is roughly an 80-win team. And I don’t see any more rotation additions happening. With that in mind, I’ll get into what I expect at the Winter Meetings.
What to expect
In addition to starting pitching help, the Cardinals need to fill a few holes in their bullpen. They need at least two guys who can be used in high-leverage spots. Someone like Phil Maton would be a good addition.
I think we can definitely expect the Cardinals to add a few bullpen pieces. I’m a little disappointed with the rotation, since they only got one frontline pitcher. But they can really boost their chances at a World Series title if they make solid moves to bolster the bullpen.
Though I don’t think Josh Hader or Craig Kimbrel are likely, who’s to say they won’t try for one of them. Imagine if they got Maton and one of the two aforementioned closers. They would truly have an elite bullpen, plus a three-headed monster at the back end featuring Hader or Kimbrel along with Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos.
Also, we were originally led to believe that Willson Contreras was out of their price range, and look what happened. With Gray’s contract backloaded, there is plenty of money to spend on an elite arm.
I could see them bringing back Jordan Hicks. While he isn’t Hader or Kimbrel, he is a solid closer option, and I’d be glad to see him back after the season he had. The back end of the bullpen would still be a dominant force.
We’ll have to see how things shake out, but I expect a few bullpen additions between now and Wednesday.