Many Cardinals fans clamored for changes in the coaching staff and front office after the 2023 season, and I do not blame them. After one of the worst seasons in franchise history from a team expected to compete in October, it made sense that some people would need to lose their jobs for the performance on the field.
While I support the ownership and front office holding onto Oliver Marmol as the manager for 2024, I am of the opinion that he does not have a ton of wiggle ruin for failure this upcoming season. Marmol certainly contributed to their failures in 2023, but the source of their issues came from roster construction, and that responsibility rests with the Cardinals' front office. If we all truly believe the pitching staff was as bad as it was, no manager was going to fix that mess.
I think Marmol takes more flack for how the season went than he deserves, but at the same time, if things repeat themselves in 2024, changes have to be made. And now with Yadier Molina joining the organization in an official capacity this coming season, the Cardinals look to be heading toward a crossroads with the two by the end of the year.
In my 10 bold predictions for the Cardinals in 2024 that I published this week, I stated that I believe one of Oli Marmol or Yadier Molina will be gone from the organization by the end of the year. There are too many different scenarios at play that could lead one of them to be elsewhere in 2025, no matter how successful the Cardinals are next season.
If the Cardinals bounce back and have a really good year under Marmol's leadership, the Cardinals will be forced to make a decision on an extension for Marmol, who is in a contract year. He's a young manager that John Mozeliak has a lot of faith in, but Mozeliak's last year as the president of baseball operations is the 2025 season. Will the front office and ownership commit to him long-term, especially with Molina looming?
If things go poorly, the decision is easy. Molina would likely jump at the opportunity to manage if it's presented to him, whether that is during the season or after. But if things go well for Marmol and they decide to extend him, will Molina really stick around as an advisor or some other coaching role?
Molina has a lot of things going on already following his playing career, so maybe he'd be a bit more patient than I believe due to those commitments and the ability to be with family. But his interest in joining the Cardinals organization this offseason tells me he's ready to get back in the game, but the only full-time role he's interested in is as a manager. If the Cardinals extend Marmol, they are likely sticking with him for at least 2-3 more seasons. My guess is that he would begin to entertain manager gigs with other organizations if that were to happen.
For now, there is no manager controversy at play. But the breadcrumbs are all there, and it will be one of the most interesting storylines to follow with this club all year long. If things start slow out of the gate for the Cardinals, Mozeliak, or frankly, ownership, may step in and give Molina a chance at the gig. But if Marmol gets the team back on track this year, the Cardinals could be faced with a tough decision if Molina is ready for the next step in his career.