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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#4 - Not being aggressive enough for top-end free agents

I mentioned this earlier when I said the Cardinals have mostly gone after mid-tier free agents, but the club's reluctance to be major players for top-end free agents has caused them to miss several opportunites to put themselves among the elite teams in baseball.

Before the 2019 season, the Cardinals passed on signing 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper, who ended up signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. The Phillies have been to a World Series since Harper got there, the Cardinals have not. Harper was age 26 during the first year of that mega-deal and is just the 24th-highest-paid player in baseball. He's posted a .931 OPS in his six seasons so far with Philadelphia and won another MVP in 2021. Talk about a player who could have helped propel the Cardinals into another level of contention and would have brought in a ton of revenue.

Prior to the 2015 season, Max Scherzer was a free agent and was interested in coming home to play for the Cardinals. After the Nationals offered Scherzer a seven-year, $210 million deal, he told Adam Wainwright that he wanted to pitch in St. Louis, and if the Cardinals could just get in the "ballpark" of what the Nationals offered, he would sign in St. Louis. Bill DeWitt III has since said in interviews that it is one of his biggest regrets running the team.

Those are two cherry picked cases, but frankly, both decisions are inditement enough. You can expand the conversation out further to the superstar shortstops that hit free agency in recent offseasons or a number of starting pitchers the Cardinals said no to pursuing. I don't think passing on the Juan Soto trade was a massive mistake, but one could argue the fact they knew it wasn't worth the prospect capital since they couldn't resign him is the problem.

The Cardinals have had multiple opportunities to add true superstars to their roster for just money and a compensation pick. I commend them for not making a huge mistake signing a bad deal that tied their hands behind their backs for years, but their reluctance to sign big talent when it was literally knocking on their door (or in the case of Harper, no one was really knocking on his) is frustrating to say the least.

Frankly, it would have helped the club avoid other mistakes as well. If they had been comfortable signing big talent like Scherzer or Harper, maybe we wouldn't have seen some of the massive swings and misses they had on the trade market, and they are able to supplement their superstar talent with young arms or bats like Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, Randy Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, and others. Just a thought.