Do The St. Louis Cardinals Need to Add Another Starting Pitcher?

The St. Louis Cardinals were aggressive early this winter in addressing their rotation, but have they really done enough to contend in 2024?

Sonny Gray is a free agent after an excellent season for the Minnesota Twins. (David Berding/Getty Images)

By: Kevin Henry

When it came to rebuilding the rotation, the St. Louis Cardinals were busy in November. They signed Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn to one-year deals, providing them with two veterans innings eaters to shore up the back-end of their rotation.

Then they made their biggest addition when they signed Sonny Gray to a three-year deal, worth $75 million, adding a frontline starter who can be their ace next season.

Combine those new faces with Miles Mikolas and a combination of Steven Matz, Drew Rom and Zack Thompson and the Cardinals seem to have plenty of options for the 2024 rotation.

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The question, however, becomes do the Cardinals really have enough quality starting pitching for the front end and middle of the rotation? The quantity may be there, but is the quality truly high enough to get back to meaningful October baseball?

Let’s examine some of the current options.

Have the Cardinals Done Enough to Their Rotation?

After Gray, who finished second in the American League Cy Young balloting last season with the Minnesota Twins, the quality becomes muddled. The 36-year-old Gibson will likely eat innings but has a lifetime ERA of 4.54 and FIP of 4.27 in 1696.0 innings.

Lynn, meanwhile, is certainly a bounce-back candidate after a down 2023 campaign that saw him post a combined 5.73 ERA and 5.53 FIP in 183.2 innings with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the last time we saw the 36-year-old Lynn on the mound, he was rocked by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS, giving up six hits and four runs in just 2.2 innings.

Of those who return to the Cardinals from the 2023 season, the 35-year-old Mikolas gave up an MLB-high 226 hits while setting the pace with 35 starts. Matz, meanwhile, had yet another injury-filled season, making his last start on August 12 and missing the rest of the campaign with a left lat strain.

If you’re reading those numbers (and some of the ages) as a Cardinals fan, there is a mixture of fear and optimism when it comes to how the rotation looks right now.

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While there is plenty of room for improvement and hope for veterans to bounce back, there are also plenty of reasons why things could potentially once again go south in a hurry in St. Louis.

While it would go against president of baseball operations John Mozeliak’s manner of doing things in St. Louis to spend big on a name like Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, there is certainly room for the Cardinals to add another starter before spring training.

The price tag has really escalated on Montgomery, but the fit is obvious considering how well the left-hander pitched in St. Louis over the last few seasons. Acquire at the 2022 trade deadline, Montgomery pitched to a 3.11 ERA over 11 starts down the stretch.

Montgomery than opened 2023 in the Cardinals rotation, where he was the one arm that could be trusted until St. Louis dealt him ahead of the deadline, where he would go on to become a postseason hero for the World Series champion Texas Rangers.

Across the two seasons, Montgomery made 32 starts in a Cardinals uniform and pitched to a 3.31 ERA over 184 2/3 innings pitched. If the Cardinals could get that production over a full season and pair him with Sonny Gray, they would have a formidable one-two punch atop the rotation.

However if the Cardinals are done spending in free agency, perhaps an upgrade can come via trade.

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The Cardinals already sent Tyler O’Neill to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for bullpen depth, with Mozeliak saying the following in a statement, “As we look to add pitching depth, as well as address concerns on potential playing time in the outfield, we felt this deal worked well in addressing both of those issues.”

That quote around depth is something that should give Cardinals fans reason to believe more may be coming for the rotation. Could St. Louis swing a deal for Dylan Cease, a move that would immediately elevate the front of the rotation?

How about a trade for Logan Gilbert and finally consummate the Cardinals trade rumors surrounding the Seattle Mariners that have been swirling for a while now? There is still prospect and position player depth that could be used to swing a deal.

While the Cardinals may not be able to build a rotation that can put them in the same category as the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves, there is still more that could be added to ensure St. Louis can be in a position to get back to the postseason.

It simply depends on how much the Cardinals are willing to bank on bounce-backs and good fortune in 2024 after a season where there was little of either in St. Louis.