Sizing up the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2022 payroll situation

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 04: The game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on May 4, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on May 05, 2021. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 04: The game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on May 4, 2021 in St Louis, Missouri was postponed due to rain. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on May 05, 2021. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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At some point, the hot stove will turn on again and when it does the St. Louis Cardinals still have some work to do. How much do they have to spend?

Predicting the St. Louis Cardinals 2022 payroll is difficult to do. Right now, the uncertainty surrounding a baseball season next year is high. Assuming the new CBA gets agreed upon in time to start the season, teams might be in a mad dash to scoop up talent.

We’ve already seen the Cardinals participate in what was a red hot blazin’ hot stove prior to the lockout by signing pitcher Steven Matz. The deal was strong and a step toward building the 2022 roster. But how much more do the Cardinals have left to spend, under the assumption they are keeping payroll at the same level?

MLB Trade Rumors came out with an insightful piece looking at payroll figures for each team. By using Jason Martinez from Roster Resource and Cot’s Baseball Contracts as sources, they show what each team is currently slated at in regards to payroll.

The Cardinals 2021 payroll was $164 million. As of now the projected payroll for 2022 is $150 million. So if the Cardinals want to keep payroll roughly the same, they should have around $14 million to spend.

That’s not an insignificant amount of payroll space; it likely is enough to bring in potentially two solid bullpen arms and maybe a bench bat/designated hitter.

In what seems to be the last season before Yadier Molina and perhaps Adam Wainwright retire, could the Cardinals splurge a bit? Either way, cutting payroll after having several big contracts come off the books in what could be the last ride for franchise legends could be a tough sell to fans.

The Cardinals seem poised to make some moves when the lockout lifts. Even $14 million is a lot to work with to add to the roster. If the market brings someone like shortstop Trevor Story in range, maybe the team pursues it. For now, it seems they are open to more complimentary moves instead of a big splash or two. That could be frustrating for some fans who want to see another bat added, or an upgrade at shortstop. The team has holes to fill and should have the payroll resources to add another reliever and a bench bat.

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Time will tell if that will be enough to send Molina and maybe Wainwright out as championship contenders. Or enough to convince Nolan Arenado not to opt-out of his contract after the season. There are big reasons to make a push for 2022. The Cardinals might need to exceed their current payroll threshold to add more premium talent. However, if they don’t, they can still add key pieces to an already talented roster.

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