3 blockbuster trades Cardinals can make to match Cubs, Cody Bellinger in NL Central

After the Cubs re-signed Cody Bellinger, here are three players the Cardinals could acquire to counter their division rival.

St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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After winning 93 games in 2022, a season where Paul Goldschmidt won the NL MVP and St. Louis won the NL Central, the Cardinals were the most underperforming team in 2023. But with regressions from Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado hindering its offense while the pitching staff’s 4.83 ERA ranking 24th in MLB, St. Louis won just 71 games in 2023.

Though they’re coming off an atrocious season, PECOTA standings and betting markets like FanDuel project the Cardinals to bounce back and win the NL Central in 2024. But after their division rival Cubs re-signed star outfielder Cody Bellinger, the Cardinals have the capital to counter Chicago’s move. Here are three stars St. Louis should inquire about:

3. If Dylan Cease is still available, Cardinals should make the call

While he’s coming off of a down season, where he posted a 4.58 ERA across 177.0 innings pitched, Cease is likely the most realistic and talented ace available on the trade market. With the White Sox expected to struggle for the second consecutive season and Cease set to hit free agency following the season, he has been one of the most widely discussed trade chips this offseason.

Command struggles (career 4.02 BB/9) have plagued Cease throughout his career, but his elite ability to miss bats gives him front-line starter potential, which he’s shown in the past. Posting a 3.01 ERA across 349.2 innings pitched from 2021-22, Cease’s 8.9 fWAR was the eighth-most among qualified starting pitchers. Though he struggled results-wise in 2023, Cease’s 115 Stuff+ was fifth-best among qualified starters while his 6.2 barrel% also ranked fifth and his 29.1 CSW% ranked 14th.

It is unknown whether the White Sox prefer to trade their ace now or at the trade deadline, but a full-season of free agent signing Sonny Gray and Cease atop the Cardinals’ rotation could turn a now bleak group into a strength of the team. Behind Gray, St. Louis is set to rely on Miles MIkolas (4.78 ERA in 2023), Kyle Gibson (4.73 ERA), Lance Lynn (5.73 ERA) and Steven Matz (3.86 ERA). Adding a starter of Cease’s ability to a group of mostly backend starters would provide a huge lift to the Cardinals.