The St. Louis Cardinals' 5-year plan

Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller didn't place the Cardinals in the top-15 teams over the next 5 years.
St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves
St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

Good businesses have contingency plans and outlooks for the immediate, short, and long term. Baseball organizations shouldn't be any different.

A good organization will maintain a high-octane MLB team while keeping the pipeline rife with talented prospects. Additionally, the business side of the franchise will have a willingness to spend both on its current players and on those in free agency.

Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller recently conducted an exercise where he ranked the 10 franchises who are most set up for success over the next 5 years. He factored in this year's World Series potential for teams, players who are under team control through at least 2028, top prospects in each organization's system, and the front office's willingness to spend by looking at prior years' payrolls.

The St. Louis Cardinals didn't even crack the honorable mentions on Miller's list. Divisional rivals Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were mentioned honorably, and the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates were ranked 10th and 9th, respectively.

Where do the Cardinals fall short?

Well, in virtually every category. When compared to the top-10 teams on Miller's list, the Cardinals have outspent only 5 of them in the last 4 seasons. Also, the Cardinals are not favored to win the World Series ahead of any of the teams on the list regardless of the projection system you choose to use.

In terms of controllable assets, the Cardinals have just a few everyday players under contract in 2028 and beyond. According to Cot's, Nolan Gorman, Alec Burleson, Jordan Walker, Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Masyn Winn, Michael Siani, and Victor Scott II will all be rostered then, but other key contributors like Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, Sonny Gray, Nolan Arenado, and Willson Contreras will all be free agents in the coming years.

The Cardinals are also lacking in prospect rankings. Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter released updated prospect rankings in mid-May. He placed Tekoah Roby, Cooper Hjerpe, and Thomas Saggese as players on the outside of the list. Victor Scott II ranked 98 and Tink Hence was 38th. Only two top-100 prospects doesn't spell success long term for an organization.

Is this a fair assessment of the organization?

It likely is, but there's a bit of a variance with the Cardinals. The DeWitt family has consistently been willing to have a payroll in the 10-15 range in baseball with a willingness to expand ever so slightly into the top-10 (see 2021). The prospects the Cardinals have are probably aptly valued, but players like Quinn Mathews, Chen-Wei Lin, and Chase Davis are a bit undervalued nationally.

The team's current crop of young players like Masyn Winn, Nolan Gorman, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Jordan Walker, and Matthew Liberatore are strong pieces to build around. Among players in the National League alone, Masyn Winn and Nolan Gorman are both in the top 87 in fWAR (though Winn's errors harm his overall ranking on FanGraphs). Ivan Herrera has been a top catcher offensively since replacing the injured Willson Contreras, and Alec Burleson is coming into his own this year. Libby is settling in nicely as a leverage reliever.

The team's World Series aspirations this year are a bit of a pipe dream. The 6th Wild Card spot opens up an opportunity for many middle-of-the-pack teams, but the Cardinals have some additions that need to be made for them to be taken seriously in the playoffs. The last two National League representatives were both Wild Card teams though, so the opportunity is quite apparent.

The Cardinals' five-year plan is a bit underwhelming as of now. A strong draft pick this year and some big additions via free agency and trades will change the tide of the team however, and the Cardinals are known for consistency. Never doubt the Birds on the Bat.