MLB Insider: St. Louis Cardinals questionable offseason could come back to haunt them

Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals
Boston Red Sox v St. Louis Cardinals / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals jumping the market for Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson was puzzling at the moment.

Here was the Cardinals’ logic behind signing both Lynn and Gibson: both are proven innings eaters and should be dependable depth after a season in which their rotation cratered. Lynn went at least five innings in 27 of 32 outings last season while Gibson went at least five innings in 28 of 33 outings. 

At this stage of their careers – they are both in their upper 30s – they will be stopgap options and don’t solve their long-term need for rotation help. Lynn is coming off a season in which he posted a 5.73 ERA in 183.2 innings while Gibson posted a 4.73 ERA in 33 innings and hasn’t posted an ERA lower than 4.70 since 2021.

With stars Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery still unsigned, it makes the decision to jump the market for both aging starters look questionable.

MLB insider: Cardinals offseason strategy could come back to haunt them

To be fair, no one could have predicted that Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery would be unsigned on March 7. So it’s difficult to blame the Cardinals for that. But Montgomery enjoyed his time in St. Louis, thrived with the Cardinals, and would instantly vault to the top of the rotation in 2024 and beyond. He also preferred to be in a smaller market like Texas or St. Louis, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

Perhaps the Cardinals could jump into the Montgomery sweepstakes late and bring him back to St. Louis on a short-term deal that would allow him to test free agency next season. But an opportunity with the Cardinals may not exist even with high-priced addition Sonny Gray sidelined with a hamstring injury, and they appear committed to rolling with Lynn and Gibson.

Considering that the Cardinals are entering a pivotal season with Nolan Arenado entering his age-33 season and Paul Goldschmidt in the final year of his contract, it’s a bold strategy by president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, and could backfire similarly to what happened last season.

There’s time to correct the mistake. Signing Montgomery on a short-term deal similar to Cody Bellinger and Matt Chapman would make sense. He could opt out after the 2024 season and the Cardinals could 1) attempt to extend him or 2) extend the qualifying offer and recoup a draft pick should he sign elsewhere.

It would give the Cardinals a great chance to compete in what could be the final season of the Arenado-Goldschmidt tandem, but it does not appear they will be shopping in the Montgomery or Snell aisle.

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