For a team that tends to be relatively quiet most offseasons, the St. Louis Cardinals have been the most aggressive team in baseball so far this winter.
With the calendar not even turning over into December yet and the Winter Meetings still days away, the Cardinals will now enter one of the most important weeks of the offseason with their primary needs as a club taken care of. Yes, there are bullpen pieces to acquire, and I'll get into their lack of a second front-line starter, but now the Cardinals can enter negotiations with agents and front offices in a position of leverage, rather than desperation.
Think about this past offseason for a moment. Everyone knew the Cardinals desperately needed a catcher. The Athletics asked for Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, and Gordon Graceffo from the Cardinals for Sean Murphy. The Blue Jays also asked for Nootbaar in trade talks for Danny Jansen, even rejecting the Cardinals' offer of Ryan Helsley in the process. This forced the Cardinals to land Willson Contreras as their catcher, and they had to add a fifth year to the contract to make sure the deal got done.
The Cardinals backed themselves into a corner and had no choice but to give up highly valued players in a trade or a large contract to fix their greatest need. They weren't going to make that same mistake again this offseason.
What they ensured for themselves in locking up Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn so early in the offseason is that they cannot be strong-armed by other clubs when the Winter Meetings begin. They can be opportunistic in both the free agent and trade market situations allow. They can make runs at a Dylan Cease, Tyler Glasnow, Logan Gilbert, or whatever starter on the trade market and not have to give up the moon to acquire them. They can pursue starting pitchers with upside in free agency knowing they have the innings to back them up if things go awry.
Don't believe it? Well first, new reports are telling us that Sonny Gray's salary for 2024 is just $10 million due to the Cardinals backloading the deal. This creates flexibility for St. Louis to remain major players. According to industry insiders before that news even dropped, the latest of whom being FanSided's own MLB Insider Robert Murray, the Cardinals plan to remain aggressive as the offseason continues to unfold.
It may not feel like it, but the Cardinals are putting themselves in a position to be a playoff team once again in 2024. Their roster won't be complete on Opening Day no matter what, and they'll likely look to add to their team at the trade deadline,
While raising the floor of this team is exciting, Cardinals Nation desires more, and rightfully so. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Willson Contreras are not getting any younger. The young bats of Jordan Walker, Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, and Brendan Donovan are continuing to improve. Top prospects like Masyn Winn, Victor Scott II, and Thomas Saggese are ready to produce in the near future. It's time to capitalize on the window they have right now and make a real push in October.
The Cardinals' aggressive approach has paid off to this point, and to receive a high grade this offseason, they need to keep their foot on the accelerator.