Entering 2024, the Cardinals appear to be in much better shape than they were in entering 2023. The pitching staff was finally addressed, and many are picking the Cardinals to win the NL Central for the second time in three years.
It's been the talk of the town so far this winter. Will the Cardinals be back in contention in 2024?
The NL Central is a weaker division than most, meaning that the division is wide open for the taking. But there's something else that Cardinals fans should be considering at the moment.
Paul Goldschmidt, the 2022 NL MVP, is entering the final year of his contract. Extension talks have not progressed, and it's looking like the Cardinals and Goldschmidt will wait until the season starts to continue discussing an extension.
But it's fair to wonder if this may be his last year in Cardinal red.
Will 2024 be Goldschmidt's last year in St. Louis?
Like most Cardinals fans, I am hoping that 2024 is not Goldschmidt's last year in St. Louis. But it's something that is worth considering.
The slugger is turning 37 this year, and he's also coming off a down year in which he hit just .268 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI. Granted, that's not a bad stat line by any stretch, but when you compare it to his MVP campaign in 2022, it certainly seems that way.
What's frustrating about this whole thing is that despite the Cardinals bringing Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado to St. Louis, they haven't done much to build around them, which would make Goldschmidt's potential departure hurt even more, knowing that the Cardinals wasted some of his best years by not supplementing the roster with more talent.
At this point, while Goldschmidt is still one of the team's top producers, he's not in his prime anymore.
The Cardinals also have a glut of position players in their system. Alec Burleson can certainly play some first base, as can Brendan Donovan, and it's always possible that the Cardinals decide Jordan Walker's final resting place is at first base.
This is largely because of the amount of outfielders the Cardinals have. If Goldschmidt leaves, they could move Walker to first to clear out the logjam even further.
In a perfect world, the Cardinals would be able to extend Goldschmidt, and while I do think it's possible and that Goldschmidt wants to be in St. Louis, I'm really afraid this is going to be his last year as a Cardinal.
With all the young position players, it's hard to see the Cardinals wanting to spend extra money to keep somebody who's going to be 37 at the end of the year.
Now, if he can return to his MVP form this year, the Cardinals can extend him and make him exclusively a designated hitter to keep his bat in the lineup and have his veteran leadership in the clubhouse.
But with him currently being 36, that is far from a sure thing, which means the Cardinals may either look elsewhere or fill the hole internally.
It all depends on how extension talks progress. The Cardinals made a key mistake with Matt Carpenter in 2019, and there would certainly be that risk if that's what they decide to do with Goldschmidt.
If they can extend Goldschmidt, it should help the team, but if talks don't gain any momentum, the Cardinals may decide to move on from Goldschmidt after 2024.
In my opinion, 2024 will most likely be Goldschmidt's final year as a Cardinal, mainly because of his age. But I certainly hope I'm wrong.