The upcoming trade deadline will be crucial to determining the St. Louis Cardinals' success for years to come.
The St. Louis Cardinals are at a crossroads. The National League Central's cellar dwellers, the Cardinals need to sell their assets at the trade deadline to be competitive in the future. The only thing standing in their way appears to be the team's own overly prideful front office.
According to Katie Woo of The Athletic in an interview on 101 ESPN, the Cardinals may still believe they have a chance at playoff contention and would thus be hesitant to sell. The front office needs to wake up and realize that the future of the team is at stake and that punting on one season for the sake of future seasons is the correct approach.
John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch have never been in this position. The Cardinals have historically not been too active at the trade deadline, simply patching a few holes in the hope that the new additions can get the team over the hump and allow it to go on a hot streak in the postseason. But this year, the Cardinals' holes are gaping, and it's questionable whether Mozeliak and company know how to repair such a damaged team.
The Cardinals have pieces that teams would want, and they could acquire quite a haul for some players given the seller's market that exists right now. Impending free agents need to be dealt, including Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Chris Stratton, and Jordan Hicks. If the team is content to run it back next year with its underperforming pieces still intact, confident that 2023 was an aberration, the Cardinals will be stuck in limbo, trying to temporarily fix their weaknesses year after year while falling farther behind in an improving division.
It is imperative that the Cardinals identify the right players and trade for pieces who will help the team. Talent identification has been an issue for the Cardinals in recent years after the much-maligned trades of Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Randy Arozarena, so the front office needs to make shrewd decisions on whom it targets.
Picking the right pitchers will be especially important. The Cardinals haven't developed a homegrown ace in quite some time, and their pitch-to-contact approach is at odds with how pitching can thrive today. Therefore, they need to go outside the organization to find arms, at least until they get in line with the rest of the league regarding pitching development. If the Cardinals can trade for pitchers who have been developed in other systems, hopefully the team now knows better than to mess with those pitchers too much.
Given the state of the Cardinals and their deep-rooted pitching development issues, the front office needs to put aside the thought of being competitive this year and start looking at young talent on other teams so the Cardinals can return to competing for the division in 2024. Mozeliak and Girsch are in uncharted waters, and the wrong move — or no moves — could wreck the franchise for the next decade.