Number 1: Failing to increase payroll and not acquiring top-end pitching
"We have six starting pitchers" is perhaps the most embarrassing moment of John Mozeliak's entire career as leader of the Cardinals' front office. After bringing back 41-year-old Adam Wainwright for a farewell season, Mozeliak cited nonexistent pitching depth as the reason for not adding any more. A huge mistake. His presumed six starting pitchers were: Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Steven Matz, and Dakota Hudson.
Technically, those are six starting pitchers, but certainly not six good starting pitchers. Mozeliak has stated the Cardinals will try to acquire three starting pitchers this offseason, and I'm inclined to believe him. However, there's a chance he won't acquire three good starters. For example, the Cardinals acquired three starting pitchers at the 2021 Trade Deadline in Wade LeBlanc, Jon Lester, and J.A. Happ, none of whom would satisfy Cardinals fans this offseason. Sure, that was somehow enough pitching depth to go on a magical run to the Postseason, but that certainly won't be enough this year.
In fairness, I'm being a bit hard on Mozeliak here. Given the restrictions of ownership, he's done a solid job in signings and trades. The responsibility to acquire starters falls upon ownership. In years past ownership has had a staunch philosophy against signing the top of the starting pitching market, and that must change for the Cardinals to have any success in 2024. The usual "dumpster diving" just won't cut it for next year.
Fortunately, the Cardinals have been linked to the top starters (Nola, Snell, Gray, Yamamoto, and Montgomery) already, a much-needed step in the right direction. But if they fail to land them it'll all be meaningless. No excuses this time. The Cardinals have to spend.