Amidst the most disappointing Cardinals season in decades, third baseman Nolan Arenado was one of the most disappointing players. Coming off a torrid 2022 in which he finished third in National League MVP voting, expectations for Arenado and the Cardinals to win the NL Central were extremely high. However, after one of the worst starts in their long history, the Cardinals were unable to climb back, and Arenado was at the center of their struggles.
In the first month of 2023, Arenado slashed .239/.281/.319/.600. With only two home runs, his power appeared completely gone, and most worryingly, the 10-time Gold Glover was a below-average defender at third. He found his form in May and June, earning a selection as the lone Cardinals All-Star, but due to injuries he wasn't able to keep this performance up. His offensive numbers again took a slide in August and September, and he ultimately finished the season on the injured list.
In total, Arenado slashed .266/.315/.459/.774 for a 109 OPS+, a far cry from his 151 OPS+ the year prior. 2023 was also the first season in Arenado's career that he played more than 140 games and did not record 30 home runs, 100 runs batted in, or win the Gold Glove Award at third base.
The Athletic's Katie Woo (subscription required) recently interviewed Arenado, asking him about his struggles in 2023 and his expectations for 2024. While some were concerned about Arenado's age as the reason for his regression in 2023, the Cardinals' third baseman attributed many of his struggles and injury concerns to overworking. Moreover, he felt significantly more pressure because of the team's struggles which only hurt his performance.
When asked about expectations for 2024, Arenado emphasized the importance of a mental reset and his tremendous motivation not to repeat last year's results. "We have to take a huge step. I don't think it's OK to have another bad year. ... We don't have time to not be good again," Arenado told Woo.
It's clear Arenado was extremely frustrated with how last season went for both him and the Cardinals, and he is as determined as ever to not let it happen again. Many players at last weekend's Winter Warm-Up expressed similar sentiments about the 8-time All-Star. Lars Nootbaar, who's spent much of the offseason training with Arenado said, "A motivated Nolan is a scary Nolan."
Nolan Arenado's resume speaks for itself. When he wasn't satisfied with his already great 2021 performance, he finished third in MVP voting the year following and led the Cardinals to a division title. It looks like he's as ready as anyone for the 2024 season to start and to bring winning baseball back to St. Louis.