The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t get the result they were expecting in the 2022 MLB Playoffs, but it’s hard not to be excited about what this team has done over the past few months. After crashing out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round for the third straight season, St. Louis has been hard at work making moves to ensure the same thing won’t repeat itself for the third straight season.
The Cardinals were busy at the 2022 MLB trade deadline making moves in an effort to run away with the National League Central, and the moves they made ended up paying off in a big way for them. This offseason, they continued that, making a series of key moves to improve their team, and it looks like they will be the favorite to win their division for the second straight season.
St. Louis hasn’t been spending as crazy as some of the other teams in the MLB, but it ultimately shouldn’t matter. They had a strong core group in place to begin with, and that hasn’t changed much this offseason. But they may regret this big risk that came from not pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade, so let’s take a look at who the player they should have traded for is and why that’s the case.
Cardinals riskiest offseason move: Not trading for Pablo Lopez
Two of the biggest moves the Cardinals made at the trade deadline last season involved adding a pair of left-handed starters in Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery to shore up their rotation. Neither guy is an ace, but they both certainly pitched like aces during their time with St. Louis. And it’s clear that they both played a big role in helping the Cardinals run away with the division.
Montgomery will be returning to St. Louis for the 2023 season, but Quintana ended up leaving and signing with the New York Mets instead, leaving a bit of a hole in their starting rotation. There’s a chance that Jack Flaherty or Steven Matz could step up and fill in the final starting role, but right now, their top four pitchers of Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson, and Montgomery are pretty solid.
Adding another starter you can rely on in a way that you can’t rely on either Flaherty or Matz, though, would have been a brilliant move to make, and the Cardinals had a golden opportunity on their plate to make that move when it came to a potential trade for Pablo Lopez. The Miami Marlins once again were rumored to be interested in moving their second-best starter, and the Cardinals were one of his top suitors.
Unlike at the trade deadline last season, though, the Cardinals ended up not finding a way to make a deal for Lopez, and watched him get traded to the Minnesota Twins just last week. Considering the price the Twins paid, giving up just Luis Arraez, while also getting a pair of prospects in return, it’s tough to see how the Cardinals couldn’t match this price.
Lopez would have been precisely what the Cardinals could have used to shore up their starting rotation. He is coming off his most consistent season as a starter (10-10, 3.75 ERA, 174 K, 1.17 WHIP) and proved that he could stay healthy over the course of a season by making 32 starts.
At his best, Lopez is an unhittable pitcher who can pitch behind an ace, or lead a rotation if needed too. The Cardinals don’t necessarily have an ace, but they have a collection of solid starters who can get hot at any given time and go on a tear. At the same time, they aren’t prone to cold bouts and struggles along the way too.
Adding Lopez would have been the cherry on top of a perfect offseason for the Cardinals. They brought Wainwright back for one more season, kept Nolan Arenado in town, and signed the best catcher available in Willson Contreras. And while making a deal for Lopez would have filled a want more than a need, it would have solidified all the work that the Cardinals have done this offseason.
Instead, there are still some questions that will loom regarding the starting rotation of this team. Can Flaherty or Matz step up and be the final guy in the rotation? Who will be the starter on Opening Day? Will Wainwright be able to hold up for another full season at the age of 41? There’s no telling whether or not the Cardinals were close to pulling off a deal here, but it’s clear that they missed a great opportunity to erase one of the biggest question marks on their roster.