They finished with a record of 71-91 and sank to last place in the NL Central.
As we all know at this point, the offseason is going to be a critical juncture for the Cardinals. The pitching staff fell apart early in the season, and that is the main area where they need to improve for 2024.
At the end of the season, we heard Oli Marmol talk about just how important this offseason would be, and even went as far as to say that the Cardinals "can't mess it up."
That is certainly a true statement, and we know the Cardinals are going to have to open up their pocketbooks and spend money on top-level pitchers to get back into postseason contention. But when we talk about this being a crucial offseason, just how crucial is it?
This offseason will be crucial for the Cardinals
It's no secret as to what the Cardinals have to do. They need three starters from outside the organization. But they need to get the right guys.
When you look at the teams that are still playing, you'll see that they all have at least one top-level starter in their rotation which gives them a chance to win in postseason games. The Rangers have Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi, both of whom have carried them this postseason.
Underdog teams can certainly make magical runs in the postseason. The Cardinals did that in 2006 and in 2011. But there's a reason they haven't done it in a while.
Those teams had quality starting pitching. Both the 2006 and 2011 teams had Chris Carpenter leading the rotation, and Carpenter certainly played the role of the ace in both of those postseasons. They also had Jeff Suppan win the NLCS MVP Award in 2006.
It's just like John Mozeliak had said at the trade deadline, "Pitching pitching pitching."
That's what you need in order to win, and you need at least one ace-level starting pitcher and another who is capable of being a frontline guy.
But as Marmol said at the end of the season, the Cardinals have to get this right.
If they sign a bunch of middle-of-the-rotation arms, they won't have much of a chance to contend for the World Series, and for a team that prides itself on being a consistent postseason contender, 2023 was quite the embarrassment.
The Cardinals haven't been a true World Series contender since the mid-2010s when they had a stretch of four straight appearances in the NLCS. That needs to change.
More importantly, the front office needs to regain the trust of the fanbase. Mozeliak getting booed during Adam Wainwright's retirement ceremony was scathing evidence of that.
Reports have indicated that the Cardinals are already interested in pitchers such as Sonny Gray and Aaron Nola, which is a good sign. But they actually have to get the job done. Actions speak louder than words.
A lack of urgency coupled with complacency led the Cardinals to where they are now. It was a gradual cycle that ultimately culminated in the team's worst season since 1990. The Cardinals need to make sure that they don't repeat this. Bill DeWitt III stated that he hoped this season was a "one-time blip."
But they need to back that up with their actions. It's time to spend big on high-priced free-agent pitchers. And if they fail to get one of them, they can't come out with the same tired excuse of "We tried but were ultimately outbid." They need to pivot to somebody else if they fail.
This offseason will determine if the Cardinals are serious about winning and being a World Series contender, and if they don't deliver, they'll be doomed to fail in 2024 and the franchise will be set back for years to come.