The Cardinals payroll is on pace to take a foolish step in the wrong direction

Despite promises that payroll would increase in 2024, The Cardinals' 2024 Opening Day payroll projects to be significantly lower than it was in 2023.
Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals
Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

Bill DeWitt III promised that the St. Louis Cardinals' 2024 payroll would increase compared to 2023's payroll. According to Fangraphs, the Cardinals ranked 14th in payroll last year. While DeWitt simply said he intends to climb the payroll scales, the assumption would be that the team's payroll as a whole would increase to be more competitive with big-market teams.

Instead of working towards a payroll near $200 million, the team's 2024 financial commitments have decreased since last year. J.P. Hill of VivaElBirdos has maintained a pretty accurate picture of the Cardinals' financial commitments next year. He estimates the team to be over $10 million below last year's Opening Day salary.

Even after adding nearly $25 million in salary this offseason in free agent signings, the team's overall salary commitments for 2024 figure to be well below its payroll last year. The Cardinals' 40-man roster is full after the addition of Nick Robertson. Therefore, if John Mozeliak wants to add to the team, it will have to be through a trade or a free agent signing in conjunction with a player being designated for assignment.

The team's rotation is better than last year, but it isn't great still. While the lineup figures to be in the top 10 of the league next year, more positional clarity would be nice. Also, the team is probably still in search of one more high-leverage bullpen arm. While there is still time for the team to make an in-season trade for a pitcher such as Tyler Glasnow, Shane Bieber, Dylan Cease, or Corbin Burnes (assuming they aren't traded this offseason), the Opening Day payroll is significantly lower this year than it was last year.

The recent news regarding Bally Sports could be hampering the front office's willingness to spend money this offseason.

Cardinal fans have been hoping for a big move all offseason. The signing of Sonny Gray was a great sign, but the fans are right in hoping for more. The backloading of his contract was supposed to give the team more financial flexibility to add to this year's roster. Instead, the DeWitt family and John Mozeliak appear to be finished with lineup modifications for now.

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