Cardinals trade Flaherty, DeJong before deadline but don’t fill holes in 2024 starting rotation

By Rob Rains

Going into their trade deadline conversations, the Cardinals knew at some point they were going to need to fill three spots in their starting rotation for 2024.

After the deadline passed on Tuesday, they are still in that same position.

The team made two more deals on Tuesday, sending pitcher Jack Flaherty to Baltimore and shortstop Paul DeJong to Toronto. In exchange, they received a combined four players, all minor leaguers.

Counting the trades on Sunday that sent Jordan Montgomery to Texas and Jordan Hicks to the Blue Jays, the Cardinals acquired a combined nine players, seven of them pitchers, but none who as of now project to be a candidate for the 2024 rotation.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, admitted that he didn’t expect to fill those holes with any of the moves the team made before the deadline – dealing five players who were all eligible for free agency after this season.

“I think you hear that phrase, ‘I’m not paying for a rental,’ so I think you can determine how that’s viewed,” Mozeliak said. “When you’re having a player for two months it’s a lot different than acquiring somebody for five years.

“We didn’t feel like those types of deals existed in this process. We looked at what path we could go down and we decided to go down the path of just adding as much depth and breadth to our system and I feel like we accomplished that.”

As of now, the Cardinals have only two starters under contract who project to be part of the 2024 rotation, Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz. Matthew Liberatore is expected to be part of the rotation for the next two months, giving him a chance to state his case for one of the open spots.

Beyond that, Mozeliak said the team is aware that the rest of the rotation likely will have to come through trades or the free agent market this winter.

“We didn’t feel like we could do that in this period,” Mozeliak said of filling those holes. “Was it talked about? Yes.”

Mozeliak said the problem was that for teams which had starting pitching depth at the major-league level, “they weren’t in a position to pull it (a trade) now.”

“Always remember that teams that are trying to win now don’t want to trade from their current roster,” Mozeliak said. “It really limits your ability to make that more impactful deal.”

The Cardinals did have conversations with teams about their outfielders but did not come close to a deal, primarily because they were not looking to move anybody who was still under their control for next year or beyond.

“We know we are going to have yeoman’s work to do to fill our rotation,” Mozeliak said. “We didn’t want to make that even more difficult.”

Here is a look at the four players the Cardinals acquired in the two trades on Tuesday:

From the Orioles for Flaherty:

Drew Rom – A lefthanded pitcher, Rom, 23, has made 18 starts for Triple A Norfolk this season, going 7-6 with 100 strikeouts in 86 innings. He was a fourth-round pick of the Orioles out of high school in Kentucky in 2018. He will be assigned to Memphis.

Cesar Prieto – A native of Cuba, Prieto is a 24-year-old infielder in his second season with the Orioles, splitting this season between Double A and Triple A. The lefthanded hitter had a combined average of .349. He also will be assigned to Memphis.

Zack Showalter – A 19-year-old righthander, Showalter was the 11th round pick of the Orioles in the 2022 draft out of high school in Florida. He had made eight starts in Class A and will be assigned to Palm Beach.

From Toronto in exchange for DeJong:

Matt Svanson – A 24-year-old righthander, Svanson was pitching in Class A for the Blue Jays, where he had a 1.11 ERA in his 26 games, all in relief. He will be assigned to Springfield.

Of the six minor-league pitchers the Cardinals have added since Sunday, four were assigned to Memphis and another will begin his Cardinals career in their rehab program in Jupiter before likely going to Double A Springfield.

“The depth that we added to our minor league system has changed dramatically,” Mozeliak said.

Now, the task begins to evaluate the players the Cardinals obtained and look toward filling the open rotation spots for 2024 in hopes of avoiding another season like this year, Mozeliak said.

“Next year’s roster is going to look different, we know that,” he said. “We weren’t at the competitive level we wanted to be so change has to happen.”

One possibility, however, that Mozeliak has not ruled out in pursuing starting pitchers over the winter might be to re-sign the pitcher who walked out of the team’s clubhouse on Tuesday, leaving a team trying to stay out of last place on his way to a team in first place – Flaherty.

As he said goodbye on Tuesday, Mozeliak said he told Flaherty, “Never say never.”

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains

Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports

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