The Cardinals sign the last pitcher for Miles
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
The Cardinals put themselves in a difficult position. They take sustainability seriously, building to compete both now and tomorrow. They never rearrange, never go all-in, and always responsibly balance the present and the future. If your goal is to win forever, you should be thinking about more than just next year when you make a decision. However, despite their focus on long-term planning, they have a lackluster rotation and should get a lot worse after this year.
Of St. Louis’ top five starting picks, only one, Steven Matz, came in the spring on a 2024 contract. This might not be a problem if a huge help from starting pitchers knocked on the door of a major league club. , but they are not. Gordon Graseffo is just around the corner, and if you’re willing to work hard on the project, Tink Hence could be ready for the big leagues soon, but up-and-down fifth starters and combat weapon swings that other teams use to increase their starting rotation in the event need, does not really exist here.
The Cardinals now have two contracts as a starter for 2024 after signing Miles Mykolas to a contract extension that will see him receive $40 million for the 2024 and 25 seasons, like Derrick Gould. first reported. It’s not quite the full starting rotation for 2024, but it’s twice as many pitchers as St. Louis had before last Friday. Bam, problem solved!
I mean, yes, technically the problem is solved. But there are many different ways to solve this particular problem, so I thought it would be a good idea to use this article to think about how St. Louis ended up in this particular location and why the team decided to offer Mykolas an extension and not do something else. pitching movement.
First things first: let’s look at the intended rotation. This is not a scheduled Opening Day rotation as Adam Wainwright won’t be ready on time, but if all goes according to plan, these are the five starting cards that will be counted on throughout the year:
Projected Initial Rotation 2023
Pitcher Joins Team Contract Age Via Adam Wainwright 2005 41 2023 Miles Mykolas 2018 34 2025 Jack Flaherty 2017 27 2023 Jordan Montgomery 2022 30 2023 Steven Matz 2022 32 2025
While the Cardinals have produced utility hitters in large numbers in recent years, since 2017 they have not produced a good enough starter to remain in the rotation. Even this was not a cakewalk; Flaherty is great when he’s in the game, but he’s struggled with inconstancy and injury for most of his career. He will also become a free agent this year and is likely not open to a contract extension.
Montgomery is the next logical choice for expansion. He is in the team because of the aforementioned excess of young strikers; he came to the team through a trade that brought Harrison Bader to the Yankees. He was a solid player for the Cardinals going forward, though he faded at the end of September. I still think the team would happily sign him for an extension, but I understand why he might want to test free rein given how close he is to the promised land already.
Because of this gap, in 2017-2022, the Cardinals don’t have a normal line-up of starting players before and at the start of arbitration to fill the second half of their rotation. It’s not even about the lack of weapons they can trust; there just aren’t that many options, period. Jake Woodford replaces Wainwright at the start of the season, but the Cardinals prefer to use him as a reliever. Our positional strength rating should not inspire optimism among the fans of the Cardinals. Matthew Liberatore should fit into the picture a bit and Dakota Hudson is still here, but the closet is extremely empty.
Most likely, the Cardinals planned that they would need additional starting lineups before the 2024 season. Wainwright looked prepared from 2017 to 20, so predicting he would be in 23 was way out of the picture. Even after the resurgent 2021 season, 22 made sense as a last ride; he and Yadier Molina could go into the sunset together. But Wainwright was good enough to stay another year. It’s delightful for Cardinals fans and probably good for the 2023 season, but left no room for starting lineup signings in the offseason.
Will your starter knock Flaherty out of the rotation? Matz? These seem like the best options, but they don’t seem like great options, especially since the Cardinals just aren’t the kind of team to shop at the top of the market. Taijuan Walker is a St. Louis pitcher, but it seems odd that a team of third and fourth starters could go out and take one at large with no obvious spot in the rotation.
This brings me to Mykolas, who has two things for him: he’s reliable, and he’s already a pitcher for the Cardinals, which means they won’t need to add payroll this year for a role in which he’ll be underutilized. It’s weird to think about it, but the Cardinals like to build a lot for next year this year, and next year really looked shaky.
Imagine a world where the Cardinals left during the offseason with only Matz left. Could they count on Grazeffo and Liberatore to secure two rotational seats? Not really; in fact, recording them for 30 combined runs is probably closer to the target. That would leave the Cardinals hunting for three starters next winter, and it’s not a big year. Maybe Max Scherzer wants to play last year where he grew up. Perhaps the WBC’s Nootbaar bromance will bring Shohei Otani into the game (unlikely). Other than that, it’s Julio Urias, Luis Severino, or lots of sketchy options.
It’s a tough year to need three starters. Any year is a difficult year when three starters are needed, but this one seems especially difficult. Three may even sell less; there is no guarantee that the youth will hold their place. The same difficult situation happened to the Mets this season, and it’s good that Steve Cohen is as rich as Croesus, because their decision was to sign Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga and José Quintana, a move that the Cardinals definitely won’t take. duplication.
This brings us to Mykolas, and I should probably talk at least a little about him in this article about his new contract. He did exactly what the Cardinals had hoped for in 2022, throwing 200 innings with an average FIP and a bunch of balls in the game. This allowed the best defense in baseball to celebrate, and they celebrated: Mykolas’ 3.29 ERA was comfortably better than his true statistics suggested. If he performs like this every year of his contract, the Cardinals will be very happy with the deal.
However, this level is not a guarantee. Mykolas made just nine starts in 2021 and missed the 2020 season entirely. When he’s healthy, he hits 200 baseball innings on average – he had about the same season in 2019 – but health is clearly not a given, and some of his peripherals started to drop in 2022, although his surface-level stats are still beamed. . ZiPS, which has a habit of digging into peripheral and forward-looking statistics, estimates that Mykolas will be worth just 1.6 WAR this year, with a *combined* 1.6 WAR to follow in the 2024 and 2025 seasons. You hardly have to do the math; if he gets into this projection, the Redbirds will fail. This is partly due to injury risk – ZiPS claims a combined 250 innings in 2024 and 2025, far less than a full roster – but partly it’s just what happens when a player who has never owned top-notch items starts to age. .
So yeah, two years at $20 million apiece is way too much for that. If you were judging this based on dollars per WAR, I don’t think you could convince me that this deal makes sense for the team. Busch Stadium is a perfect fit for Mykolas’ skill set and he’s outperformed before, but $20 million will sign you as an average starter *sure* in free agency these days. Chris Bassitt, Jameson Tylon and Walker signed for around that amount just a few months ago.
For me, this deal is about reducing uncertainty, even if it means making the offer too generous for Mykolas to turn down. Competing every year is hard; it is more difficult to compete every year with semi-stable wages. Doing this when you need a huge injection of talent into your starting rotation is even more difficult. It’s entirely possible that the Cardinals could meet their starting needs next season, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t want to mess around and figure out what could happen.
Probably Mykolas will be good but not great for them this year. They will probably leave in the offseason to add the starting pitch. It’s likely that a few guys who served better than Mykolas in ’23 will pay less than him in the off-season, and Cardinals fans will grumble about it. These are not bold predictions; these are average expectations.
If you told John Mozelyak, president of baseball operations for the Cards, that this was all going to happen, I doubt he would be surprised. I think the average outcome of this deal is that the Cardinals spend a little more money hiring Mykolas than they would if they had acquired a similar production as free agents after the season.
However, this is just the cost of protecting against downside risk. It was easy to imagine some really bad scenarios for the Cardinals after this year. Maybe Matz will get hurt again, Grazeffo won’t work out as smoothly as expected and they’ll need a whole new rotation next year. Maybe they would have missed their top five goals in the free agent market because they misjudged the speed of the market and ended up offering big contracts to players they weren’t sure about. If you’re not ready to take a year off from competition and don’t have an internal channel that provides cheap opportunities, you should be concerned about those opportunities.
Each of these is less likely after this expansion. Even if Mykolas ends up being an overpayment, it is an overpayment that reduces the risk. I’m pretty sure St. Louis will still try to get Montgomery involved in contract renewal negotiations and will do the same with Flaherty if they think he can. Continuity is important and having a reliable enough serve to fill an entire season is not a given. The Cardinals have just shown how much they believe in those statements with this contract extension.