5 unpopular decisions the Cardinals have made that ended up being right

The Cardinals have made a lot of mistakes in recent years, but these five decisions ultimately were best for both fans and they organization.
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The St. Louis Cardinals have made a lot of mistakes over the last few years, many of which resulted in their worst season in franchise history in 2023.

The organization faces a major test in 2024 to see if they can rebound from the mistakes of their past. Some of the moves they made this offseason (Sonny Gray, bullpen overhaul, Chaim Bloom, among others) indicate steps in the right direction, while other moves (signing Kyle Gibson/Lance Lynn, not adding a second front-line starter, etc.) give fans reason to be concerned.

We've talked at length about the mistakes the organization has made in recent years, and imagine we will continue to do so. But today I wanted to take a moment to look at some decisions the franchise made that ended up being the right calls, even if they were unpopular at the time.

Again, this is not a defense of the front office, but rather a quick glimpse into some "fork in the road moments" where things actually did go right, and maybe offer some hope about better decisions to come. Ultimately, their play on the field and future decision-making will dictate our thoughts here, but I do think it's important to note that there have been things fans have wanted the Cardinals to do that would not have been good for the team.

1. Passing on a Sean Murphy trade

The Cardinals tend to avoid spending big money in free agency, instead opting to trust their young talent or send the trade capital necessary to upgrade their roster.

While trades are a vital part of building a good team, we've seen the Cardinals make massive mistakes in the trade market, giving away future contributors for an immediate reward that did not pay off. The Cardinals had the opportunity to trade for one of the best catchers in baseball in Sean Murphy last offseason, but the asking price was way too high.

Reportedly, the Cardinals would have had to part with Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, and Gordon Graceffo to get the deal done. Nootbaar and Donovan are both key pieces in the Cardinals lineup who are cost-controlled, and Graceffo is a young arm who could make an impact in the near future. Murphy is a really good player, but that is a ton of talent to give up for him, especially with an option like Willson Contreras available for just cash and a compensatory pick.

That's the direction the Cardinals ended up going in, and one I think most of us can agree is the right decision. Which side of this "trade" would you rather have?

Side 1:
C Sean Murphy (6yr/$73m)
2023 2nd round pick

Side 2:
C Willson Contreras (5yr/$87m)
OF Lars Nootbaar (FA in 2028)
UTL Brendan Donovan (FA in 2028)
RHP Gordon Graceffo

Um, I'll take side two in a landslide.

Things did not go well for Willson Contreras in the first half of 2023 with St. Louis, struggling at the plate and being removed from his catcher duties for a period of time. But from July on, he was one of the best hitters in all of baseball (literally) and has put in a ton of work this offseason to improve defensively. Contreras has his flaws, but not enough to give up Nootbaar and Donovan to make the "upgrade" to Murphy.