Grading the St. Louis Cardinals offseason using 3 different perspectives

Now that the Cardinals' offseason is over, let's grade the offseason from some different vantage points.
Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals
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Based on payroll constraints: B+

Now here's the second reality. Yes, it's John Mozeliak's job to lobby with ownership to have a higher payroll, but at the end of the day, he cannot control the final number. That's on the Bill DeWitt Jr. to set for the club. And frankly, given the limited budget the Cardinals had compared to what we thought they would be working with, they made quite a bit of moves.

Before I get into payroll numbers, let me preface by saying the Cardinals do not release their official books, so all we really have to work off of with these numbers is great reporting from people who cover the team and the contract details released this offseason.

The Cardinals' Opening Day payroll for 2023 was right around $178 million. As of today, their Opening Day payroll for 2024 sits around $171 million, about a $7 million decrease from last season. While we don't know the exact numbers, it's at least clear that they did not take a major step forward like they indicated they would, and although some of that falls on Mozeliak's shoulders, it's far more likely that this is around the number that ownership gave him to spend this offseason.

The Cardinals' payroll entering the offseason was somewhere between $136 million and $141 million including their projected arbitration numbers. That means Mozeliak has been allowed to spend between $30 million to $35 million this offseason in his pursuit of three starting pitchers, two established relievers, and other pitching depth.

The Cardinals were able to free up some cash by backloading Gray's contract as well as non-tendering and trading away some pieces, but the expectation this offseason is that Mozeliak would have somewhere between $50 million and $70 million to work with and see their payroll somewhere between $185 million and $200 million come Opening Day.

If the front office was given that kind of budget to work with and settled for this kind of offseason, that would be a disaster on the part of Mozeliak. I just highly doubt he decided on his own to spend $20 million to $40 million less than DeWitt allowed him to. Given the constraints the Cardinals' front office was given by ownership, I think they had a really productive offseason.

Again, this is considering the budget that is self-imposed by ownership. This grade is purely looking at the offseason moves with that as the imposed reality, because that's what the front office had to work with. We can talk all day about how ownership needs to spend more, and they do, but unless they say they'll cut the checks, Mozeliak can't spend more than he is given.

So with that in mind, getting one front-line starter and two innings-eating veterans while also overhauling the bullpen with upside arms is a really nice offseason in my opinion. Again, it's less than we were expecting, but if we all came into the offseason knowing that payroll would go down instead of go up, I think we'd be pretty impressed by the haul the front office acquired (again, not defending ownership's spending habits, just giving props to the front office for making something out of the expired lemons they were given).