MLB Network calls out Cardinals for not entering a rebuild

While the Cardinals are playing better, they haven't convinced everybody that they're back. In fact, MLB Network analysts have criticized them for not entering a full rebuild
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

The Cardinals have begun to play better baseball in recent weeks. In fact, they're now just five games out of first place in the NL Central, have taken control of third place, and come to within three games of the .500 mark.

A sweep of the Orioles helped reinforce fans' beliefs that the team might in fact be turning the corner. You could chalk it up to baseball being a weird game, but that is still an impressive feat.

Still, not everybody is convinced that they've figured things out. On MLB Network, Brian Kenny listed the Cardinals as one of four teams that need to enter a rebuild along with the Red Sox, Mets, and Padres. He, Christopher Russo, and Bob Costas called out the Cardinals for being stuck in the middle.

Cardinals listed as potential rebuild candidates

This take from the analysts on MLB Network is going to elicit mixed reactions, especially from Cardinals fans.

To be clear, I am very encouraged by the way the Cardinals are playing and am hoping that it's sustainable so they don't have to do a rebuild of any kind. If they keep this up, there's no need to rebuild.

But Costas made a good point, that the third Wild Card spot is what's causing teams to hesitate before considering a rebuild. In the Cardinals' case, that makes sense. They're only 1.5 games back of the final spot.

But their play has deteriorated over the last two years. They finished in last place in 2023, going 71-91. This year, they're better but still under .500. They've only been above that mark once this season, and that's a problem.

So, the third Wild Card spot could be exactly why teams like the Cardinals are hesitating to go through a rebuild. Obviously, it would be hard to tell such a passionate fanbase like St. Louis that a rebuild was coming. Fans wouldn't take that well because the Cardinals simply don't engage in rebuilds.

That final Wild Card spot gives teams that otherwise would have no hope reasons to be encouraged, especially when the last two NL Pennant winners, the Phillies and Diamondbacks, were the third Wild Card teams.

I still stand by my statement that I don't think the Cardinals need a full rebuild. That wouldn't go over well with the fans. But the time has come to build around their young players such as Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, Masyn Winn, and Nolan Gorman.

Players such as Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are past their primes, and building around them doesn't make sense anymore. In a sense, the Cardinals are stuck in the middle, trying to build a team around aging stars, which isn't working.

So, if the Cardinals are under .500 at the deadline and stuck in the middle, they need to trade away players like Goldschmidt, Arenado, and Ryan Helsley. Helsey in particular could net the Cardinals a haul that should include Major League-ready players, even a top prospect or two. Those pieces could then help the Cardinals in 2025 and beyond.

When you think about it, it might actually be the quickest way the Cardinals can bounce back into contention and enter a new era. Not a full rebuild of course, but moving on from Goldschmidt and Arenado and building around the young core.

The young stars the Cardinals have are huge pieces and they can carry a team when they're right. We'll see if they can keep up their good play, but if they can't, the focus needs to be on the future.