5 questions facing the Cardinals as they enter the 2024 season

Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol (37) looks on during
Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol (37) looks on during / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

With Major League Baseball's Opening Day upon us, many questions linger for the St. Louis Cardinals. After an atrocious 2023 season that ended with the club's worst record in decades, a 71-91 record, hopes are high that the Cardinals will be able to turn things around.

But hopes were high last season, and things didn't turn out well. So far, management's language suggests that they don't want fans to worry about healthy pitchers, having enough bats, or that backup infielder. It's all going to be okay.

After last season, it's difficult for fans to feel okay about this team.

Questions remain the Cardinals open the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Let's discuss.

5. Does Oli Marmol have enough support around him to have success in 2024?

Marmol has more around him this season. Daniel Descalso returns to St. Louis as the bench coach. Yadier Molina should be present in the clubhouse as a special assistant to John Mozeliak. Dusty Blake has his first season as a pitching coach under his belt and now has the help of Dean Kiekhefer as an assistant pitching coach and Daniel MacLea as coordinator of technology & systems. 

The team brought in veterans with experience in the Cardinals system, including Matt Carpenter and Lance Lynn. Sonny Gray is a vocal leader for the rotation. Willson Contreras, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado are not homegrown talents but have been brought in because of their tremendous talent and abilities to lead by example.

The organization is making its belief in Marmol known by giving him a contract extension through 2026. Hopefully, the team can work within and not be concerned with Marmol throwing out public criticisms, which was a consistently terrible look last season.

4. Will Yadier Molina be the presence the fans hope for him to be?

Most fans would have preferred Molina to be named manager when it was announced that Marmol would receive a contract extension through 2026. With that out of the question, seeing his return to the clubhouse will be fun. Molina's return was supposed to happen toward the end of Spring Training.

But his return has yet to happen. It's curious what fans should expect when he does return to the team. What kind of role will he have? What kind of role does Marmol want him to have? How will they mesh? Most importantly, is this why he has yet to return?

Molina has a busy schedule due to his other commitments. It would have been helpful for him to arrive sooner. Hopefully, Marmol and Descalso will keep the club's buy-in intact for the 2024 season.

3. Is the team prepared to bounce back in 2024?

The 2024 Cardinals do seem poised to be dramatically better. The additions of Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson should help Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas, and Zack Thompson. Gray and Drew Rom starting the season on the injured list isn't great, but the team has time to allow for healing and figuring out their options.

The additions of Matt Carpenter and Brandon Crawford provide depth and veteran leadership to a young group trying to figure things out. Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman are injured, allowing Michael Siani, Alec Burleson, and Brendon Donovan opportunities in the outfield. Victor Scott II will make his debut as well.

This also allows Nolan Gorman to secure the second baseman role when he isn't the team's designated hitter. Masyn Winn will get all the opportunities to be the team shortstop. The only thing in his way will be getting at-bats with some consistent productivity.

Arenado, Contreras, Goldschmidt, and Jordan Walker are set in their positions.

2. Will the Cardinals have consistency in the outfield?

Even with Nootbaar and Edman on the injured list, the Cardinals have several options for the outfield.

Michael Siani, Alec Burleson, and Brendan Donovan will join right fielder Jordan Walker in manning the outfield for the Cardinals. It's great that Victor Scott II will start the season with the Cardinals. It comes under the unfortunate circumstances of Dylan Carlson starting the season on the injured list. Once Nootbaar and Edman return, more decisions loom. The Cardinals will also be forced to consider bringing up Victor Scott II at some point this season.

Thankfully, the Cardinals have multiple options available to them in the outfield.

1. After the offseason of pitching, pitching, pitching, should the Cardinals have signed Jordan Montgomery?

A team can never have enough pitching. Never enough.

The Cardinals obtained "pitching, pitching, pitching" to take them into the future with their trade deadline moves and offseason moves. With Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn, and Kyle Gibson being the sole moves to help the team's starting rotation now, it feels like they didn't do enough to fulfill the need.

Gray is starting the season on the injured list with hamstring concerns. Lynn, scheduled to start the home opener, has struggled mightily through spring. Gibson has had his struggles. Mikolas and Metz are the returning starters who've had previous health concerns. Thompson and Matthew Liberatore will be options.

That said, it does not garner confidence that the Cardinals did enough to fix the pitching issue that hurt them in 2023.

Rather than going out and getting one more piece, such as Jordan Montgomery, a former Cardinal who signed Tuesday evening with the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year deal worth $25 million plus a vesting option for 2026, While Montgomery likely didn't want to return to the Cardinals, Mozeliak feels they have enough and he is stern about believing they have enough pitching.

While it will be exciting to see the pitchers the Cardinals have for the future grow, it would have been great to have options to help the team now. Gray was a step in the right direction, but the team could have done more. They didn't, and we'll be forced to see how this plays out for the Cardinals. Here's hoping the Cardinals do have enough for success.