One of the major criticisms of the St. Louis Cardinals I have seen from fans has been that they "always say they'll do something big, but never follow through with it". I've said that statement just is not true, not because I'm defending the Cardinals' recent moves, but I'm simply pointing out that the Cardinals have intentionally decided to not go after big names in recent years, and have been pretty open about that. You can hear more about that on the "Noot News Podcast" that I co-host with Redbird Rants writers Andrew Wang and Sandy McMillian.
The last two winters, the Cardinals had an immediate need at the shortstop position, but decided to pass on Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, Dansby Swanson, and Carlos Correa twice. There was potential for a move for Swanson if they did not sign Contreras, but other than that, they never even engaged the market.
Should they get grief for that? I say so. Trea Turner, Corey Seager, or Marcus Semien would have been excellent additions to this club. Maybe Masyn Winn will eventually prove them right, but for now, they missed out on some elite talent at the shortstop position.
Intentionally deciding not to even engage with the shortstop market in free agency is much different than "promising to get elite talent and now following through". The Cardinals' indifference toward the market was a major problem and one that needed to be addressed. Apparently, they do not want to make the same mistakes when it comes to this offseason's pitching market.
This quote from Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says everything about why this offseason already has a much different feel than the last two winters.
"Internally, they expect to do this winter for pitching pursuits what they chose not to do (twice) in the shortstop sweepstakes. Spending isn’t the only way to build a contender, but when it comes to premier positions such as shortstop and pitching it is the most expedient."
See the difference here? The last two years, the Cardinals said "Nah, I'm good" when it came to the free agent shortstops that were available. It's not like they made nice offers but were outbid and said "At least we tried!", instead, they just balked all together. What Goold is saying here is that this offseason, the Cardinals plan on jumping into the pitching market, not standing by the wayside and thinking they can avoid spending on the big names.
This lines up with what Goold reported recently, that internally, the Cardinals front office and ownership both now see eye to eye on the need to meet the price of pitching this offseason. It also lines up with Bill DeWitt III's comments to the St. Louis Business Journal, that the club plans to "climb the payroll rankings" this offseason.
Honestly, every single starting pitching this offseason should be on the Cardinals' radar. Based on recent reporting, the Cardinals are seriously interested in the majority of the top names available on the market, and will explore deals with almost all of them. They won't go crazy and get all three of Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but they should walk away with three legit starters who can get them back into contention in 2024.
I don't blame fans for being skeptical, but I think it's pretty clear that the reporting surrounding the team and their rhetoric so far imply they are going to be operating differently this offseason. Actions will speak louder than words, but to this point, everything I'm seeing surrounding the club's plans has been encouraging to say the least. If they fail, I'll be the first person to call them on it, but for now, I'm going to hold them to their word, not just take them at it. Things have to change, and I think they finally see that themselves.