A dearth of leaders opens up opportunities for new candidates in St. Louis

In a season where leadership is necessary for the St. Louis Cardinals, several players are stepping up.
Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Lars Nootbaar (21) talks to
Feb 19, 2024; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Lars Nootbaar (21) talks to / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Reports throughout the offseason surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals have revolved around a lack of leadership in the 2023 clubhouse. Despite veterans such as Adam Wainwright, Nolan Arenado, and Paul Goldschmidt, the clubhouse was missing a strong voice to lead the young players and redirect the team's focus in a difficult season.

One of John Mozeliak's goals this offseason was to revamp the clubhouse culture and bring in bonafide leaders. He accomplished that goal by adding Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and most importantly Sonny Gray. A late-season addition of Matt Carpenter was the icing on the proverbial leadership cake. In addition to these outside voices, the clubhouse needed internal players to become leaders, particularly young players.

The three players have stepped up thus far in Spring Training to take the helm on leadership in the clubhouse. Reports and images have begun surfacing this offseason of Sonny Gray, Brendan Donovan, and Matt Carpenter standing out as figureheads for the team.

Matt Carpenter

When two of the best baseball players of this generation stump for a free agent, fans should know that a free agent must be vital to the team's plans. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have been quoted on multiple occasions this offseason saying that Matt Carpenter's signing was essential to flipping the clubhouse this year.

Carpenter's impact on the 2024 Cardinals likely won't be felt on the field as much as it will behind the scenes. Given his All-Star pedigree, his familiarity with the organization, and his ability to communicate with players of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels, Carp figures to be a key voice in the clubhouse as the team's 26th man.

Brendan Donovan

Brendan Donovan is entering his third season with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is a Swiss Army knife of sorts, as he can play every infield position and both corner outfield positions while providing above-average offense. This offseason, Donovan's impact has been felt mostly in the communication department.

While Donovan recovers from an elbow strain, he puts his focus on becoming a leader in the clubhouse. Reports have indicated that Donovan is "blunt" as a leader. He didn't enjoy being on the sideline from August until the end of the season, and he is intent on using his hunger and motivation to help out those on the team.

The Cardinals opted to hold onto Brendan Donovan this offseason despite ample rumors suggesting he could be a trade candidate. He can provide strong offense from the top of the batting order, and he is making himself into a leader in the clubhouse for next year.

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray is rising to the top in both the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation and leadership hierarchy. Gray, 34, is a student of the game. At his introductory press conference, he spoke at length about his pitch mix, his grips, the changes he has made during his career, and what he hopes to bring to the Cardinals organization.

There have been moments this Spring that featured Sonny Gray holding court with other pitchers and catchers after live batting practice or a bullpen session. Gray entered the organization with a plan in mind; in various meetings with President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak, Sonny Gray gave Mo insight and advice on how to organize a coaching staff. Before even taking the mound for his new team, Sonny Gray's fingerprints were all over the organization.

In a year in which leadership is paramount to a team looking to make a 180-degree turn from last season, three players have taken the lead. With Matt Carpenter, Brendan Donovan, and Sonny Gray, St. Louis has three vocal players who are integral parts of the team's success in 2024. Without legacy players such as Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright, certain guys must step up and be directional voices for the young players in the organization.