Seems obvious when you watch this team night-in and night-out. The Cardinals need more and better pitching, particularly of the starter variety. It is desirable for said pitching to have better K-BB ratios, among other things. Swing-and-miss stuff, as it were. It’s great to see Cardinal management catch up with what has been obvious since, oh, at least mid-2021. Remember Lester and Happ? Quintana and Montgomery and Stratton?. There you have it. Pitching, pitching and pitching. So, go out and get some pitching. Re-factor your budget and re-factor your roster accordingly.
Except…for three small details. Complications, if you will.
Complication#1 – Six of the players most likely to not be with the team in 2024 are … pitchers. Stratton, Hicks, VerHagen, Flaherty and Montgomery are all pending free agents. Wainwright retires. Except for Waino, the natural inclination is to expect the Cardinals to trade the pending FAs before the deadline, and get some value. These are all MLB-caliber pitchers that teams in the playoff hunt might covet, right? Except, if these pitchers are so damn good, why are we so excited to see them leave, and how do we conclude the Cardinals will be better when they are gone? On top of that, what will come back? Certainly not MLB-ready pitching talent, which is by definition what "pitching, pitching, pitching" means. What playoff-bound team is going to trade MLB-ready pitchers with remaining control for MLB pitchers without remaining control? Why would they?
Complication#2 – If MLB-ready pitching is to come back to the Cardinals via trade, it will take moving top prospects AND positional players off the major league roster. For prospects, you can start with the idea of trading Tink Hence (future pitching) if you want a MLB caliber starter (now pitching). Graceffo may need to go, too. Then some of your young, controllable position players – Donovan, Nootbar, Carlson, Edman, Gorman and yes, Walker are going to be the price demanded. Masyn Winn will come up in discussions, too. Lose some of those players and all the sudden, you have other holes that aren’t pitching, pitching, pitching.
Complication#3 – The Cardinals are horrible defensively. 30th (out of 30 teams) in defensive efficiency. All the DH types they play in the field kill their defense (and their pitching). Contreras, Burleson, Walker, and Gorman are all below-average, some well below average. Donovan and the CF du jour are average-ish at best. Goldie and Arrenado used to be elite, but are in serious defensive decline stage.
While I see the idea of "pitching, pitching, pitching", I think that is too narrow. There is a quaint (ie. not from quant era) phrase that pitching AND defense make up 80% of the game. Even in the advanced metric age, I don’t think that has become pitching, pitching, pitching, and I hope they don’t lose sight of that.