The 2023 season was a catastrophe for the Cardinals.
A membership that anticipated to spend the season main the NL Central and prepping for a deep October run as an alternative spent just about all summer season in final place within the division. It’s the primary time they’ve completed final of their division within the wild card period. Severely. The final time the Cardinals completed in final, 1990, the Central Division wasn’t a factor. Wild playing cards weren’t a factor. Heck, they hadn’t even completed next-to-last of their division since 1997.
“I believe all of us should agree, this 12 months occurred. It is behind us,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak informed reporters through the penultimate homestand. “It was not what we had hoped. It was not good.”
In actual time, the collapse felt prefer it got here from out of nowhere. Fact is, although, there have been indicators, beginning with a lackluster offseason and a perception — hope? — that a number of key gamers would rebound from accidents and/or lowered manufacturing. Nearly none of these hopes panned out, and Mozeliak has begrudgingly admitted the offseason fortifying of the roster was missing.
So, yeah, there’s work to be achieved this offseason. It’s not nearly plugging holes (like within the rotation), however discovering methods to improve the general roster, whether or not it’s by addition or subtraction. Some options are simple, some not a lot. One potential situation was already dealt with; there was grousing within the fan base over supervisor Oli Marmol’s job this 12 months, however Mozeliak has already stated he’s the supervisor subsequent 12 months, in order that’s put to relaxation.
MORE: High 10 accessible free brokers for 2024
Cardinals three offseason targets
1. Discover beginning pitching. Mozeliak has admitted his mistake of not doing sufficient to construct depth within the rotation and he’s set the bar excessive for acquisition expectations. He’s stated the aim is to herald three new starters from exterior the group, whether or not that’s through free company or commerce. And he’s been fairly clear, that doesn’t imply one No. 3-type starter and a pair of No. 5 candidates. He desires three impression starters. The rotation wants that if the membership expects to compete subsequent 12 months, as a result of one of the best rotation holdover, Miles Mikolas, is a No. 3 starter, at greatest, at this level in his profession. Make that occur, and they need to have sufficient potential rotation depth, with guys like Zack Thompson, Matthew Liberatore, Dakota Hudson and Drew Rom behind Mikolas and Steven Matz, ought to accidents come up (as they all the time do).
2. Work out the outfield state of affairs. Lars Nootbaar has proven he deserves a spot within the outfield (if he can simply keep wholesome); he’s a plus defender and will get on base. Jordan Walker continues to be a piece in progress defensively, however he simply hit 16 homers with a 116 OPS+ as a 21-year-old and is the longer term for this crew. Tommy Edman has proven that he might be a Gold Glove heart fielder, however his positional versatility is extra worthwhile to the membership than locking him into one place. So the true query is that this: Are Tyler O’Neill and/or Dylan Carlson on the roster this spring? Each have struggled with accidents and inconsistency, and it seems like one (or each) is likely to be higher off with a brand new state of affairs heading into subsequent season.
3. Work out the Paul Goldschmidt state of affairs. He’s been every part they may have hoped for since buying him in a commerce with Arizona and subsequently signing him to an extension. He was excellent his first three years with the membership, then received the NL MVP his fourth 12 months. However his manufacturing dropped moderately considerably in 2023, and he’s getting into his Age 36 season and the ultimate 12 months in his contract. At this level, all choices must be on the desk. They need to see what kind of return he may deliver on the commerce market. They need to see about his willingness to signal a brief extension. Principally, don’t simply let him play out the string.
Cardinals free brokers
Not quite a bit right here, however bear in mind they traded away most of their looming free brokers earlier than the August 1 deadline, guys like Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks.
SP Adam Wainwright: Heading right into a well-deserved retirement with 200 profession wins
RP Drew VerHagen: Was wonderful, however by no means lived as much as excessive hopes getting back from Japan
Cardinals free-agent targets
All the beginning pitchers, actually. The membership has largely shied away from getting concerned in free-agent bidding wars, however they should transfer previous their consolation stage this offseason. That doesn’t imply they’ll exit and outbid the Mets and Yankees for Japanese star Yoshinobu Yamamoto (although I wager he’s price each penny, and so they completely ought to), but it surely does imply they need to be there with aggressive presents for guys like Aaron Nola, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez and Marcus Stroman. A sneaky potential? Sonny Grey is a pair years older than that group, however regarded like he had lots left within the tank throughout his Age 33 season with the Twins this summer season. Give him a shorter-term take care of a hefty AAV and lock it up. Perhaps an excellent shorter deal for Hyun Jin Ryu, who shall be 37 however has regarded good off the IL for the Blue Jays. It’s not arduous to think about a state of affairs the place they see worth in Lucas Giolito after the right-hander’s collapse down the stretch. Wouldn’t damage to take a flyer on a man like Frankie Montas.
Oh, and so they completely ought to provide Shohei Ohtani something he desires, clearly.
Cardinals potential commerce targets
How a lot are you dreaming right here, Cardinals followers? Both Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff could be precisely the kind of bat-missing pitcher the Cardinals are concentrating on, and the Brewers may presumably (seemingly) transfer one of many right-handers this offseason; each are eligible to develop into free brokers after subsequent season and on the most, one will obtain an extension provide from the membership. However would they actually commerce them to a division rival? That appears extremely unlikely.
Tyler Glasnow was comparatively wholesome in 2023 (20 begins was a profession excessive) and his 12.0 Ok/9 charge matches the invoice. However, like Burnes and Woodruff, Glasnow is eligible without spending a dime company after the 2024 season. Meaning the Rays could be open to transferring him for a younger participant or two, however are the Cardinals searching for a one-year remedy?
So, if the Cardinals do need to swing massive on the commerce market, there’s one goal that stands alone: Dylan Stop. The correct-hander with the nasty breaking stuff has two years of membership management remaining, and it’s not just like the White Sox are on the precipice of rivalry once more, not after the debacle of 2023. And his worth is down, little question; Stop completed second within the 2022 AL Cy Younger race with a 2.20 ERA, however that jumped as much as 4.66 in 2023. His H/9 went method up (6.2 to eight.8), however he nonetheless struck out 10.8 per 9 innings and his FIP didn’t present practically the identical charge of soar (from 3.10 to three.79). He’s getting into his Age 28 season and has three consecutive years of 32 begins underneath his belt.
Cardinals on the buying and selling block
Hinted at this earlier, but it surely’s time for the Cardinals to maneuver on from Tyler O’Neill. His expertise is immense; bear in mind what he did within the final month-and-a-half of the 2021 season? In his last 43 video games, he put up a .325/.384/.669 slash line, with 14 homers, 37 RBI, 37 runs and 6 stolen bases. The prospect of seeing that for a full season must be sufficient to get a good prospect in return, or be a part of a bundle that lands a beginning pitcher. Fact is, although, he can’t appear to remain wholesome. Within the 12 regular-season months over the previous two years, he’s performed greater than 19 video games simply three months.
As for different commerce choices? Edman’s defensive versatility could be valued by different groups, but it surely’s valued by the Cardinals, too, and I’m undecided he hits sufficient — 96 OPS+, .311 on-base the previous three years — to deliver again sufficient of a return to justify buying and selling him. Brendan Donovan is one other versatile glove, and he confirmed sufficient as a hitter (116 OPS+, .365 on-base in 2023) to deliver worth on the commerce market. Carlson, as talked about, may transfer, too, however the membership is likely to be higher served by letting him come again this spring to indicate groups he’s wholesome, then make a transfer.
Andrew Knizner is excellent as a catcher and confirmed higher pop on the plate, however prospect Ivan Herrera proved his bat is prepared at Triple-A final 12 months, and would the membership actually carry three catchers (even when Willson Contreras isn’t dealing with a full-time load)?
Last Cardinals ideas
Sure, the 2023 season was a catastrophe. However this isn’t a membership in want of a full rebuild. Just about your complete season was one worst-case state of affairs after one other. Get a pair dependable, impression arms within the rotation and assist the children proceed to develop — Walker, Herrera and Masyn Winn, particularly — and there’s no purpose to consider the Cardinals received’t be again within the playoff dialog in 2024.