The Cubs will finish 20+ games behind the Cardinals in 2023
In 2022, the Chicago Cubs finished 19 games behind the NL Central-winning St. Louis Cardinals. So, almost 20 games back. Moreover, the Cardinals' roster was largely unchanged. After the retirement of Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols, Willson Contreras was brought in to replace Molina as catcher and Pujols as an everyday power bat in the lineup. With Jordan Walker on the rise, and Nootbaar and Gorman set to improve, it looked like the Cardinals improved in the offseason.
The Cubs added Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, and Cody Bellinger, all restoration projects, and replaced Contreras with an aging Tucker Barnhart. Their main move was Dansby Swanson, a glove-first shortstop who would certainly make an impact but probably only fill the hole Contreras left in their lineup and not much more.
Without an improbable resurgence of Bellinger, the Cubs looked to be largely the same team, and so did the Cardinals. It wasn't completely unreasonable to assume the Cardinals would gain one win over Chicago for a 20-game lead. However, Cody Bellinger did return to his MVP-level form, Justin Steele emerged as a Cy Young candidate, and the Cardinals completely fell apart.
Any Cubs fans reading this are probably familiar with this take, as it was spread around by a few influencers in Cubs media, but ultimately Chicago fell short of a playoff spot despite their spending. It was extremely difficult to predict the Cardinals' downfall and the Cubs' resurgence at the same time in 2023, so take your wins now. The Cardinals will be back in 2024.