Earlier this week, Peter Gammons reported the St. Louis Cardinals were to meet with Jon Lester next week, which would be just after Thanksgiving. Now, for some, these reports may come as a surprise. The Cardinals? The same Cardinals who have a farm system deeper than the ocean? Not as much anymore since they traded Shelby Miller, Tyrell Jenkins, Joe Kelly, and Sam Gaviglio in the past 5 months.
As the Cardinals have lost pitching depth within their farm system, they also have an alarming number of concerns with their current starting rotation, and signing Jon Lester would be the answer. While the Cardinals are also on a shortlist for Max Scherzer according to Ken Rosenthal, the price of the Missourian Scherzer will be out of the Cardinals range. That being said, GM John Mozeliak has been quite aggressive this past year, trading from strength to win now, so anything is possible.
The Red Sox and Cubs have been the most publicized suitors for Lester, but don’t count the Cardinals out just yet. They are set to meet next week, despite reports floating that Lester is close to a deal with the Red Sox.
The Cardinals have already completed the biggest trade of the offseason by dealing for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden, giving up their young starter Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins. That being said, they don’t appear to be done. Whether or not that means them going hard after the big name starters or just kicking the tires on them is yet to be seen, however, the need for a starter is not obvious, but underlying.
Sure, the Cardinals have 6(7 if you count on Jamie Garcia being healthy) guys who should be able to start. Granted, that includes youngster Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez, both of whom I prefer out of the bullpen. Wainwright is coming back from a lingering elbow issue that should be resolved. Wacha is coming back from limited time last season due to an injury, and ended his season on a low note, giving up the walk off hit to the Giants in the NLCS just more than a month ago. Lackey, though costing very little this season due to an oddity in his contract, is not someone I would bet on being healthy or consistent all year, and there will be one open spot in the rotation for Martinez or Gonzales, unless they sign or trade for someone.
The one starter with no strings attached at the time is Lance Lynn, who has simply been a winner in his past few seasons. He would be a number 2 starter on most staffs, but slides nicely into the 3 spot in St. Louis.
Cardinals win. They have a winning tradition, and have made moves this offseason to support being in a win-now mode, which for them, is pretty much every year.
So, what is stopping them from signing Lester or Scherzer? Money obviously, although, they have some payroll flexibility. That being said, if they make a big splash, their payroll will climb up towards 150 million within the next few seasons if they plan on keeping Heyward past this season too.
Shall be an interesting battle to see who Lester signs with.