Disgruntled fans might not like to hear it, but two articles have named the St. Louis Cardinals one of the most improved teams going into the 2024 season. The Athletic (paid subscription required) placed the Cardinals in its top 5, in the "Priorities achieved" section, while Bleacher Report ranked the Cardinals at No. 9.
The Cardinals were able to patch up their rotation for 2024, adding last year's second-place American League Cy Young Award finisher, Sonny Gray, to the mix, along with Kyle Gibson and returning Cardinal Lance Lynn. They also bolstered their bullpen, adding former Tampa Bay Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge in exchange for outfielder Richie Palacios, and they rid themselves of often-injured outfielder Tyler O'Neill, trading him to the Boston Red Sox for minor league pitchers Nick Robertson and Victor Santos.
These moves, in addition to their Rule 5 draft pickup of right-handed pitcher Ryan Fernandez, have made the Cardinals much steadier on the pitching side, where nearly all of their problems in 2023 lay. The team is likely done spending in free agency, according to Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III, so any additional pitching moves would likely come from trades.
The Cardinals should finish with a better record than they had in 2023, but the organization's stated philosophical shift toward pitchers with strikeout stuff won't be a quick fix. The team's "Get to the playoffs and see what happens" mantra is a tired one, but until the Cardinals develop pitchers more effectively, this appears to be the team's best shot in these leaner years.
Fans have rightfully aired their grievances toward the front office for its missteps last season regarding the maligned Contreras controversy and the clashes with O'Neill, but with a new season comes new opportunities, and despite some mixed messages this offseason about how much the Cardinals would spend, the team is in a better spot than it was last year.
Sometimes an outside perspective is best when it comes to analyzing how a team has performed in the offseason, and The Athletic and Bleacher Report believe that the Cardinals, while likely not a World Series contender, are on the road back to relevance.