It's time, St. Louis Cardinals Nation.
None of you need me to tell you that. In fact, some of you believe I haven't pressed this idea hard enough. While the Cardinals have done enough this offseason to get back into the playoff conversation, the main issue is just that. It's only just enough.
What about doing more than "just enough"? What about going out there and making the move that separates them from the rest of the National League Central and gives them a legitimate shot to win in the playoffs?
On Thursday, we saw two different organizations have very different responses to their winning seasons in 2023. The Baltimore Orioles, fresh off winning 101 games and loaded with some of the best young talent in baseball, swung a big-time move for one of the best starters in all of baseball in Corbin Burnes. They just came under new ownership this past week, and it's clear that this new group is set on winning right now.
The Brewers, on the other hand, just won the National League Central by nine games, and instead of building upon their success and their own young core that is emerging, they traded away their best player in order to maintain a "sustainable winner".
The Cardinals are not the Brewers. They don't cash in their best players for assets before a season even begins. But they also aren't the Orioles right now, seeing the opportunity to win in October and making the uncomfortable moves necessary to do so.
I'm not saying they need to go out and trade Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan today to get Dylan Cease, but they really should be on the phone with Chicago, Miami, Seattle, or whoever has a front-line starter to trade and figuring out what it would take to grab that guy with their top prospects. Or, better yet, go out and spend more money.
Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell are still free agents, and frankly, their market isn't moving. Sure, I'm not sure it's wise to give them their full asking price (or at least not Snell), but at some point, one of them is going to blink, and the Cardinals should be ready to pounce, whether it's on a short-term "prove it deal" or a long-term commitment. But that's on Bill DeWitt Jr. to make that happen.
Montgomery, Snell, Cease, Jesus Luzardo, Logan Gilbert, whoever it may be, that player can take the Cardinals from an NL Central contender to a National League contender, and the difference in those positions matters to Cardinals fans.
Is the Cardinals' offseason a failure if they don't make that final splash? No, I don't think so. They've added one front-line starter in Sonny Gray and covered their back-of-the-rotation innings deficit with Kyle Gibson and Lance Lynn. They've added six different arms to their bullpen mix, with multiple of them profiling as high-leverage arms. They've subtracted players from the mix without clear roles and have aimed to provide clarity to their roster in 2024. It's enough to get back to winning baseball, but it's not enough to contend with the best teams in the league.
Now, they could kick the can down the road to the Trade Deadline and accomplish what I am talking about here, but that would also require the Cardinals to do something that's typically out of their comfort zone. John Mozeliak acquired Matt Holliday at the trade deadline in 2009, but outside of that, they've tended to make moves around the edges in July, rather than the big swing.
Why not now? Why not solidify this team as a true contender in February? Why not aim higher than competing for the NL Central crown? Now is the time to strike, will the Cardinals rise to the occasion?