The St. Louis Cardinals are ready to go this offseason. They have money to spend on pitching and will likely spend more than they have in recent years.
Much of this is due to the fact that they finished with a 71-91 record, securing their first losing season since 2007.
On the free agent market, there are several former Cardinal players who could be of use to their old team in 2024, specifically on the pitching side.
MLB Rumors: 5 former Cardinals who should come back this offseason
5. Michael Wacha
Michael Wacha made his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2013. He almost threw a no-hitter in September of that year and even earned NLCS MVP honors as the Cardinals surged to the World Series.
Two years later, Wacha was an All-Star for the first time. Injuries slowed him down in the following years, and he ultimately left St. Louis after 2019.
After stints with the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Rays, Wacha seemingly re-invented himself with the Boston Red Sox, going 11-2 in 23 starts with a 3.32 ERA in 2022. He joined the Padres in free agency last offseason.
Wacha continued his upward trend, posting a 3.22 ERA. Now a free agent once again, St. Louis could look to him as a potential middle-of-the-rotation option as they shop for pitching and attempt to put a disastrous 2023 behind them.
Wacha was a fan-favorite in St. Louis, and fans would certainly enjoy seeing him back in Cardinal red if he can continue to pitch the way he has over the past few seasons.
Cardinals fans remember him best for his success during the 2013 postseason, and the veteran right-hander is pitching much more like the Cardinals expected him to early in his career.
4. Jordan Montgomery
Bringing back Jordan Montgomery will come with a hefty price after he put together a solid postseason performance and guided the Texas Rangers to their first ever World Series title.
More than likely, the price will be north of $100 million. But the Cardinals appear to be committed to spending this winter, and Montgomery is somebody who could help them out.
Montgomery came to St. Louis from the New York Yankees in the Harrison Bader trade, only to be shipped off to Texas at this year's deadline due to the Cardinals falling out of contention early in the year.
St. Louis got Tekoah Roby, Thomas Sagesse, and John King in that deal.
Montgomery proved himself as a reliable postseason starter with Texas, and the Cardinals need arms that are going to give them a chance to win games in the postseason. The 30-year-old left-hander can help with that.
Montgomery won 10 games in 32 starts and posted a 3.20 ERA during the regular season between Texas and St. Louis. His last start with the Cardinals was a six-inning, three-run performance against the Chicago Cubs prior to the deadline.
3. Chris Stratton
Stratton is another former Cardinal who could return to St. Louis this winter. He went to Texas along with Montgomery on July 30.
St. Louis picked Stratton up at the 2022 deadline from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the same deal that landed the team left-hander Jose Quintana. He became a viable piece in the team's bullpen down the stretch as they cruised to their 13th NL Central title.
This season, the veteran right-hander appeared in 64 games with the Cardinals and Rangers and posted a 3.92 ERA.
In addition to the starting rotation, St. Louis also needs help in the bullpen. Even though they were out of contention at the deadline, the pen took a hit when Stratton was traded away.
He can be used in high-leverage situations and can help bridge the gap in the seventh inning or later, going alongside guys like Giovanny Gallegos and former All-Star closer Ryan Helsley.
Stratton shouldn't be out of the Cardinals price range, and having connections in the organization certainly can't hurt his case.
The 33-year-old owns a career ERA of 4.43 but has become a viable weapon in the bullpen.
St. Louis would certainly benefit from having him back.
2. Jordan Hicks
Another viable reliever that was traded away at the deadline was right-hander Jordan Hicks.
Hicks has a high-upside arm and can even touch triple digits with his fastball. He made his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2018, and after multiple arm injuries, he returned to form late last season.
Hicks took over as the team's closer when Helsley went down. Adding him back would give the Cardinals three options for the closer's role, with the other two being Helsley and Gallegos.
The back end of the bullpen would then be a major strength for the Cardinals as they try to pick up the pieces and rebound in 2024.
Hicks had an ERA of 3.29 during the regular season. The Cardinals traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays at the deadline, which further thinned the team's bullpen depth, but got St. Louis a few pitching prospects in return.
But with money to spend and lessons hopefully learned, the Cardinals may be able to bring the 27-year-old flamethrower back to St. Louis.
In 25 appearances with the Blue Jays, Hicks had an impressive 2.63 ERA and proved to be a weapon out of their bullpen as well.
1. Joe Kelly
Kelly actually began his Major League career as a starting pitcher. He came up through the Cardinals system in 2012 and ultimately secured a spot in the rotation in 2013. He even started Game 3 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox, where he would be traded the following year.
In Boston, Kelly became a back-end reliever and helped guide the team to their World Series title in 2018. The veteran right-hander split this past season with the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
His stats for the regular season are a bit troubling, as he posted a 4.12 ERA. But after being traded to the Dodgers, he had a microscopic 1.74 ERA in 11 appearances.
Kelly can be used in high-leverage situations and also has great postseason experience under his belt. A reunion with the Cardinals could be in the works given the Cardinals need for relief pitching.
Like so many before him, Kelly was adored by the St. Louis fanbase. The Cardinals sent both Kelly and Allen Craig to the Red Sox in 2014 for John Lackey. But things may ultimately come full-circle this coming offseason if the Cardinals pursue a reunion.