The St. Louis Cardinals entered this offseason knowing that they needed a total overhaul of a starting rotation short on both depth and impact talent. President John Mozeliak wasted no time addressing the former, signing veterans Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson to one-year deals earlier this month. Now, he’s addressed the latter: Per a report from Ken Rosenthal, St. Louis has reached an agreement with former Twins righty and 2023 AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray on a three-year, $75 million deal.
Gray may not have the upside of Blake Snell, the workhorse track record of Aaron Nola or the upside of Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto. What he is, however, is a genuine frontline talent, one who posted a 2.90 ERA over 303.2 innings (56 starts) across two years in Minnesota — including a 2.79 mark in 184 innings this past season. He also brings some much-needed swing-and-miss to a Cardinals rotation in desperate need of it: Gray’s 9.0 K/9 would have been far and away St. Louis’ best in 2023, and their only two starters who even cleared 8.0 (Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty) are currently free agents.
Gray just turned 34 on November 7, but there isn’t much reason to be concerned about his aging curve. It’s only a three-year deal, after all, and the righty has never been particularly reliant upon fastball velocity for success; he ranked in just the 31st percentile in the category last season, and he threw his four-seamer just 27.9% of the time. His bread and butter are a pair of elite breaking balls, a sweeper (.097 BA against, 41.3% whiff rate) and curveball (.257, 28.2) that he’ll throw to both lefties and righties in any count. The Cardinals shouldn’t have much concern about paying Gray through his age-36 season, especially at $25 million a year — money that amounts to basically low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 money in today’s market. Gray should absolutely produce up to that level, with a ceiling that’s far higher, and he’s a very proven commodity for a pitching staff that needs as many of those as they can get.
The Cardinals’ rotation currently lines up with Gray, Miles Mikolas, Lynn, Gibson and a number of potential No. 5 options including Steven Matz, Zack Thompson and Matthew Liberatore. That’s certainly better than how things looked at the end of the 2023 season, but it also doesn’t figure to scare any of the teams St. Louis has to gain ground on in the NL; the team’s World Series odds at DraftKings Sportsbook haven’t budged from +4000. Mozeliak and Co. figure to still be on the hunt for another option to slot in behind Gray, with a reunion with Montgomery the most enticing possibility. They also need bullpen help, with Josh Hader at the top of the market and quality setup men like Hector Neris and Robert Stephenson also available.