We are approaching the halfway point of the 2023 season and it is fair to say that the St. Louis Cardinals are not having a great time. In a National League Central division that looks like the second worst division in baseball (wow does the AL Central look bad), the Cardinals haven’t come close to contending so far and even a .500 record this season seems like a lofty goal at the moment.
Look, the Cardinals aren’t going to win the division every year and it is important to note that other teams in the division have a say in where the Cardinals place. The Pirates have somehow become an actual force to be contended with at times although their recent losing streak took some wind out of their sails. The Brewers and Cubs have turned inconsistency into an art form as they have averaged out to be decent if unexciting. As for the Reds, they are showing real signs of life especially since they called up Elly De La Cruz and they have rode a massive win streak all the way to first place.
However, that doesn’t explain why the Cardinals are off to one of their worst starts in decades this season and like with most things, the answer is complicated. Some of it can be explained by waving one’s hands around and saying “baseball is weird sometimes”, but there were clearly missteps small and large that have combined and cascaded into what has become a glorious dumpster fire of a first half for St. Louis.
Some of these mistakes looked like mistakes at the time and we wonder what the team was thinking. Others seemed like fine decisions at the time, but have turned out poorly because baseball is hard and guys (especially prospects) that seem like they SHOULD perform ended up flaming out. In the end, though, all moves have to be judged on their results and, well, the results haven’t been great in 2023.
Without further delay, here are six mistakes that the Cardinals' front office has made in recent years that have helped to put the team in the terrible position they are in right now.
Not being proactive last offseason
This one has been beaten to death by just about everyone, but can’t be ignored here. The Cardinals were a pretty good team in 2022, but certainly not good enough to tread water for this season and expect the wins to come like candy. The rotation’s viability and injury concerns were known going into the offseason and the only real move they made for pitching was to bring back the 41 year old version of Adam Wainwright.
It hasn’t helped that the one big move the Cardinals did make last offseason, the Willson Contreras signing, hasn’t panned out so far and has also caused a bunch of organizational drama. Replacing what Yadier Molina meant to the team was always going to be a tall order, but Contreras has still fallen well short of what St. Louis was hoping for when they signed him.
It seems like the Cardinals were at least semi-interested in signing other big names like Carlos Rodon and Dansby Swanson last offseason, but they got neither of them nor did they make any other moves to improve the roster beyond the bare minimum. That's a problem.