Number 3: Removing Willson Contreras from catching duties... again
The puzzling decision to remove Willson Contreras from catching duties in 2023 was possibly the Cardinals' most embarrassing choice during the season. After nearly two decades of future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina behind the plate, the Cardinals moved towards an offense-first approach at the catcher position. Contreras was never known for great defense, and the Cardinals knew that prior to signing him.
However, less than two months into his Cardinals tenure, Contreras was temporarily moved from catching duties and used as the team's DH. The Cardinals quickly realized their mistake and reinstated him as the everyday catcher, but it's been rumored they're considering making the same change for next season.
While Contreras is a solid hitter, using him as a DH makes the lineup significantly weaker. Not only does a worse offensive catcher in Knizner or Herrera need to start every day, but the flexibility of the DH spot is also entirely gone. Some teams use a primary DH such as Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton, or Kyle Schwarber, but those hitters are all much better than Contreras. The Cardinals are much better suited when using the DH spot to rest Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, or Nolan Gorman so they don't have to play the field every day. Contreras is a stellar offensive catcher, but a mediocre offensive DH.
Moreover, pitchers such as Miles Mikolas have defended Contreras' defense and game-calling. Of course, Contreras won't be Yadier Molina, but the Cubs' pitching was fine for years using him behind the dish. The Cardinals' inability to use him as the starting catcher is less Contreras' fault and more the team being unprepared to be without their franchise catcher. Contreras was never the problem. It was the Cardinals' poor pitching. Hopefully, if the rumors are true, the Cardinals will bring back Molina as a coach to make the transition smoother for Contreras next year.