Myth - Payroll did not go up in 2023.
Reality - Payroll did go up in 2023 - but how it went up is where Cardinals fans should be upset
Ask many Cardinals fans, and they'll say the front office lied about payroll increasing in 2023, or that if it did go up, it was only a very small increase. Those statements just are not true, and they bring the focus away from the true problem, which was how payroll went up.
Derrick Goold detailed this well in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Cardinals' Opening Day payroll in 2022 was $154 million and went up to $174 million in 2023. That is about a 12% increase in payroll, which is a significant boost on the surface. The problem with these numbers, and the thing that the organization needs to be held accountable for, is they represented mostly pay raises for internal options, rather than going out and improving the club like they needed to. Yes, they signed Willson Contreras last offseason, but most of that payroll jump came from arbitration raises, Arenado's increased salary, and re-signing Adam Wainwright.
The Cardinals did look at other moves last offseason, but could not convince veteran bats to come to St. Louis to compete for a starting job and balked at the price of the top-end starting pitchers. Based on internal conversations at the end of this season, it sounds like both ownership and the front office are ready to meet the price of pitching.
Why does this matter? Well when people continue to throw out false numbers or narratives at the Cardinals' organization as "proof" that they lied, it does not help the argument. What the Cardinals need to acknowledge, and actually seem to be at this point, is that the way they have spent in recent years is just not going to cut it in today's game.