The 7 biggest issues that led to the demise of the St. Louis Cardinals

Over a decade ago, the Cardinals were the class of Major League Baseball. Oh how the mighty have fallen, and these 7 issues are at the core of their demise.
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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#7 - Burning cash on the wrong kind of talent

Honestly, I think the Cardinals' lack of spending or blaming the club's issues on bad contracts can be overstated at times - but that has definitely been part of the issue. I just believe there are a number of other issues that have plagued them even more than some bad salaries on their books.

Just ask any Cardinals fan to name some bad contracts the club has handed out in recent years, and they'll rattle off a plethora. Free-agent acquisitions such as Mike Leake, Dexter Fowler, Andrew Miller, Greg Holland, Brett Cecil, and Steven Matz come to mind for many fans. Extensions for players like Miles Mikolas, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Carlos Martinez also did not age well. It's true, the club has not always spent their money well.

Every club hands out bad contracts, and honestly, there are a lot of organizations that we could rattle off that sent themselves into a rebuild solely off bad free-agent signings. The Cardinals haven't done that per se, but their bad spending has certainly helped erode their on-field performance.

I'll address the kind of talent they should have been targeting with their money later, but a common theme I see with the mistakes in contracts they hand out is overpaying for mid-tier talent.

Names like Fowler, Leake, Matz, and Cecil were good but not great players that St. Louis spent a lot of money on. While those contracts tend to be "safer" in the sense that they won't sink your payroll like those failed mega-deals can, they can still become dead weight on your books, and at the very least prevent the club from taking a big swing at top-end talent.

The Cardinals have not been afraid to trade for expensive talent. They pulled off a trade for Giancarlo Stanton before he vetoed it and went to New York instead. They traded for Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. But the club has been hesitant to extend big time offers to big time free agents ever since they were spurned by both David Price and Jason Heyward.

I love the signings of Willson Contreras and Sonny Gray in the last two offseasons. While neither guy was necessarily the "superstar" of their free agent class, they certainly fit the bill of top-end talent. But it's notable that the club paid up for those guys who "wanted to be in St. Louis". They have not been interested in bidding for names that may not be seeking St. Louis as their home but would consider them if they offered the largest contract.

We'll get more into the latter part of that conversation later, but ultimately, the Cardinals' reluctance to spend big in free agency has kept them from making massive mistakes, but has also prevented them from putting their team "over the top".