The Cardinals are in position to make some noise in 2022, but the Front Office sees an even brighter future ahead in 2023 and 2024.
It may be frustrating in the moment, but St. Louis Cardinals fans may appreciate careful moves in the near-term to protect the potential of the ballclub in future seasons.
The splashiest move that St. Louis has made over the offseason was signing Steven Matz to a 4-year, $44 million dollar deal. Although grabbing some of the bigger name free agents now would be exciting, and there is an argument the club should make at least one more large move, John Mozeliak and Mike Girsch have a vision for this club in future seasons that will make Cardinal fans apperciate the waiting period. The club could very well make a move for Trevor Story, Frankie Montas, or another high level player, but any move would need to also protect the future.
The source of this excitement comes from the combination of new payroll flexibility and the infusion of young talent that the club has and will be getting. After shedding contracts like Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, Brett Cecil, Carlos Martinez, and contracts like Wainwright, Molina, and Mikolas coming off the books over the next two years, the club has money to spend, but more importantly, to extend some of the new core members of the club. Players like Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson need new contracts soon, and players like Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman will follow quickly. The club has the flexibility to extend any of these players that they want, and then use the extra cash flow to attack any weaknesses of the future ballclubs.
The lineup specifically will benefit from the youth movement. Just on the current roster, here is what a potential lineup for St. Louis will look like in 2024:
RF Dylan Carlson
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Tyler O’Neill
3B Nolan Arenado
2B Nolan Gorman
DH Jordan Walker
CF Harrison Bader
SS Tommy Edman
C Ivan Herrera
Bench: Juan Yepez, Lars Nootbaar, Edmundo Sosa, Brendan Donavan, Backup Catcher
However that lineup shakes out, there is potential for the club to have six different high level bats that are already within their own organization. Guys like Bader, Edman, Yepez, Luken Baker, Maysn Winn, and Joshua Baez could all add to that bunch as well. Having this many high level to elite bats in the lineup under team control or long term extensions will put St. Louis’ lineup among the best in the bigs.
There is a bit of concern in the future of the pitching staff. By 2024, Wainwright will be gone and it is unclear if Flaherty will remain. Guys like Matthew Liberatore, Dakota Hudson, Steven Matz, Michael McGreevy, Zack Thompson, and Jake Woodford are the current arms that seem most likely for the teams rotation. But, if the club is smart with spending now and trusts in the core of their lineup that they already have in the organization, the clubs resources can go out toward pitching in free agency.
In the 2022-2023 offseason, names like Chris Bassitt, Mike Clevinger, Jacob deGrom, Sean Manaea, Joe Musgrove, Chris Sale. In 2023-2024, names like Luis Castillo, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito, German Marquez, Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, Julio Urias, and Luis Severino hit the market. With an abundance of arms hitting free agency over the next few seasons, it is likely the Cardinals could snag one or two if they are serious about upgrading.
It’s not exciting, but being shrewd now will provide the club with the flexibility to lean into some high end, cost effective talent in future seasons, while retaining core players on extensions, and having cash flow to address any issues that may arise. Remain patient Cardinals fans, as this team will take off in the next few seasons.