The 2021 season is drawing closer. What are three things the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans have to look forward to?
It is Jan. 4, and the St. Louis Cardinals have done nothing in free agency. Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright remain unsigned. There is a gigantic hole at second base with Kolten Wong unsigned and unlikely to return to St. Louis.
But that does not mean there are not things to look forward to in 2021. In fact, there are many, and here are three of them that Cardinals fans should keep an eye on.
Yadier Molina is likely to return.
Yes, I realize this will not appeal to all of you, but the feeling is that most of you will want the Cardinals to bring Molina back for his 18th season in St. Louis. After all, he has established himself as one of the best players in franchise history and while he may not be the elite catcher he once was, he can help lead the pitching staff for another season or two.
Molina returning would only enhance the Cardinals’ chances of winning the National League Central, and that must be intriguing to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and general manager Michael Girsch.
Especially since the National League Central is so winnable.
The offseason is almost two months old, and there is no team that is seemingly trying to win the division. The Brewers are not likely to make any big moves. The Cubs have already parted with star pitcher Yu Darvish and Kyle Schwarber. The Pirates are, well, the Pirates. And the Cincinnati Reds have already traded Raisel Iglesias and by all indications, are looking to shed more payroll.
It leaves the perfect opportunity for the Cardinals to win the division and advance to the postseason. The team, despite common belief, does have money to spend this winter. Some of it figures to go to Molina and/or Wainwright, but the team is hopeful to upgrade the offense at some point and could look to a player such as Joc Pederson.
Either way, the Cardinals should be in prime contention in the Central – and that is before they have even begun to address their roster.
Dylan Carlson will be on the roster for a full season.
Carlson’s introduction to the Cardinals was not kind. He was optioned to the alternate site after slashing .162/.215/.243 through 79 plate appearances and losing playing time in the outfield. But he was later recalled and showed signs of the player the organization has been so high on, often reaching base and earning a promotion to the cleanup spot in the lineup after batting No. 8 or 9.
This year, his path to playing time is clear. He is the only outfielder seemingly guaranteed a starting spot as Mozeliak scours the market for upgrades. If Carlson can pick up where he left off in 2020 and continue to improve, he has the makings of a cornerstone player in the outfield for the next decade. And he has the talent to make it happen – perhaps making this the reason to be most optimistic in 2021 about the team’s outlook.
Also considered: Jordan Hicks returning.