After summer fun, Cardinals’ unceremonious fall highlights rising cost of contention

His hair now not but dry from the chief’s orchestrated Champagne ambush, Cardinals government John Mozeliak stood close to the workforce’s birthday party – the spoils of a department name – and may see the long run his personnel were making ready for, one they might now not put off.

Across the room from him stood the fixtures of previous and provide: two retiring greats, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols, and within sight was once venerable starter Adam Wainwright. All soaking wet. Pujols picked up the place he left off, again within the playoffs with the Cardinals identical to he was once the remaining time he wore the redbirds, in 2011. Molina and Wainwright remained the constants, the battery that powered 15 consecutive profitable seasons and received 4 National League pennants. Molina personified the Cardinals’ continuum, connecting the 100-win groups of 2004 and 2005 via 2022, his thirteenth autumn within the playoffs.

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Philadelphia Phillies vs St. Louis Cardinals Game 2 National League wild card series

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) stands within the dugout after being pulled from the sport for pinch runner when Molina singled in remaining at bat in Game 2 of the National League wild card sequence between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Photo via David Carson,

An abrupt go out from the postseason supposed what Mozeliak watched in Milwaukee have been the remaining splashes of good fortune for that trio in combination, a prelude to the instant the Cardinals knew was once coming.

It proved to be brightest earlier than nightfall.

“You trade for Nolan Arenado because you’re trading for greatness. You trade for Paul Goldschmidt because you want greatness,” president of baseball operations Mozeliak mentioned, motioning towards the MVP applicants within the heart of the lineup, a Champagne bottle in his hand. “The way we were thinking was, yes, we understood we had some players who were on the downward side of their careers – Yadi and Waino. And then we’re looking at this: How can we re-establish the elite talent the Cardinals have always had?

“We could not wait for it,” Mozeliak mentioned. “You can develop it. Or, you can trade for it. Or, you can sign it. And we chose to trade for it.”

Now, they wish to increase it.

For the primary time since 2000, the Cardinals have an open festival at catcher, and so they’ll have a brand new opening day starter there for the primary time since 2005. The Cardinals can simplest identify applicants, now not certainties, in any respect of the positions up the center. Although, Tommy Edman will probably be at shortstop or moment, until he’s in heart. The Cardinals hope their cornermen, Goldschmidt and Arenado, stable the brand new core.

Cardinals v Brewers

St. Louis Cardinals infielders Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have fun a 3-1 win on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, over the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. 

As the Molina Era ends, the Cardinals face a renewed query.

Is it time for his or her tried-and-true style to retire, too?

“I think all postseason runs are typically defined by who gets hot. Can you put things together at the right time?” Mozeliak mentioned. “Look back at the successful runs — think about 2004, 2006, 2011, 2013 — and you had people doing a lot of positive things (for) deeper runs. Do I feel like that team (2022) is built for a deep run? It has to click. It has to come together.”

Blink and the season ended.

For greater than 15 years, the Cardinals have, like groups from Tampa Bay to Boston, the North Side to southeast Texas, known the randomness of the postseason. Surrendered to it, in point of fact. They goal their roster, their spending, and their targets to profitable the department. And then see what occurs within the short-series theater of October. Well, with 93 wins, they received the department. They additionally have been the only department winner to not make the department sequence. An NL Central crown ain’t what it was.

The new playoff layout rewards the highest two department champs in each and every league, in keeping with their document, with first-round byes after which dumps the opposite department winner into the bin with the wild-card berths.

The postseason nonetheless has video games of probability. An 89-win San Diego membership can waltz into Queens, take at the kings of Ok, and go away Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Edwin Diaz with a foul draw after going all in on a $290-million payroll. Not profitable the department makes a workforce extra liable to October’s randomness. Ask the 101-win Mets. The Cardinals may have received a five-game sequence towards Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and the Phillies, however they’ll by no means know. Winning the NL Central wasn’t sufficient to steer clear of a first-round jump via the Phillies.

Philadelphia Phillies vs St. Louis Cardinals Game 2 National League wild card series

Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto (10) pumps his fist as St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (46) moves out within the 8th inning with two runners on all over Game 2 of the National League wild card sequence between the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. Photo via David Carson,

A technique to cut back the chance of the postseason’s layered randomness now could be to try for the highest document within the NL, now not only a department. That may imply aiming for 100 wins.

Inflation is all over. The cost of contending goes up.

Four of the six golf equipment that may pay a luxurious tax this season, in line with Major League Baseball, have been NL playoff groups — the Cardinals’ opponents for the pennant. Of the six NL playoff groups, 5 had payrolls of no less than $210 million. With an estimated $170-million payroll, the Cardinals spent roughly 50% lower than the typical of the opposite 5 playoff groups. They have been 25% lower than Atlanta, and that payroll may balloon with younger gamers locked up, $150 million dedicated for 2023, and a cascade of earnings coming from price ticket gross sales and building round a brand new suburban ballpark advanced.

With raises due arbitration-eligible gamers, the Cardinals have an estimated $155 million dedicated to an lively roster for 2023. Colorado is ready to hide $16 million of Arenado’s $35-million wage, providing further reduction. Another 12 months got rid of from ticket-sale boundaries, the Cardinals possession anticipated payroll to develop for 2023, and that was once earlier than the Pujols Farewell Tour performed earlier than sold-out crowds.

The Cardinals hinted at their willingness so as to add a sizeable contract with their pursuit of outfielder Juan Soto on the business cut-off date.

And, in hindsight, presented a peek into a space of focal point, too.

The playoffs underscored why.

“We just couldn’t produce offensively,” supervisor Oliver Marmol mentioned after the Phillies’ sweep within the best-of-three National League Wild Card around. “We just didn’t put up runs. Need runs to win.”

Hoisted via Pujols, Arenado, and MVP favourite Goldschmidt, the Cardinals’ lineup had a strong season. Their 772 runs completed 5th within the majors, in the back of the Dodgers and Atlanta within the NL however forward of the Mets. Their .745 OPS ranked 5th, too, in the back of LA and Atlanta, however higher than the Mets. They had the fourth-lowest strikeout charge (19.9%) within the majors. They have been additionally, apparently, held to a run or much less in 32 video games. They have been shutout an NL-high 16 video games within the common season. The seventeenth shutout of the season was once their remaining sport of the season. In the sequence towards the Phillies, the Cardinals’ offense went as chilly because the ice they as soon as pulled Champagne from.

All 3 runs in 18 innings got here on two swings from pinch-hitting inexperienced persons.

In the playoffs, they’re 9-19 because the 2013 World Series, and in 9 of the ones losses they’ve scored one or fewer runs.

This October was once greater than a continuation of previous postseasons. It was once a window into transparent and provide problems dealing with the Cardinals. First, main contenders paintings in threes. Check the lineups for the highest NL groups and it’s imaginable each and every one has 3 elite offensive gamers: LA’s Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Trea Turner will all obtain MVP votes; Atlanta has Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson as MVP contenders and Michael Harris II is a favourite for the rookie of the 12 months; and the Mets had RBI champ Pete Alonso, MVP candidate Francisco Lindor, and batting champ Jeff McNeil.

The Cardinals had Goldschmidt, Arenado, and a second-half resurgent Pujols. He made historical past with such a lot of swings. Now historical past repeats itself. In 2011, Pujols left the Cardinals with a hollow to fill of their lineup. In 2022, after 18 homers, 48 RBIs, and a .715 slugging share after the All-Star spoil, Pujols leaves the Cardinals with a hollow to fill of their lineup.

Where have you ever long past Carlos Beltran?

Second, an influence provide from the outfield may fill that hollow. Tyler O’Neill’s breakout 2021 integrated a .912 OPS and increased the outfield manufacturing to the degrees the Cardinals had been looking for since Matt Holliday’s departure. The Cardinals entered 2022 having cleared the way in which for 3 returning, younger, on a regular basis outfielders — and all 3 regressed. By rotating outfielders in keeping with matchups, Marmol was once in a position to salvage above reasonable manufacturing — the outfield slipped from .782 (ranked 7th) in 2021 to .719 (eleventh) – however folks struggled.

Dylan Carlson, Harrison Bader (earlier than business), and O’Neill, undone via accidents, all slugged lower than .400, all noticed their OPS shrivel via no less than 80 issues.

Third, they weren’t by myself. As the Cardinals audit the offense and search for tactics to take care of or support it, they’ll to find a number of hitters who fell into funks and didn’t emerge. Slumps weren’t solved, they continued. That’s true of Paul DeJong for a number of seasons, Carlson this season, and Goldschmidt for the general 5 weeks of the season. He led the NL in OPS and slugging however didn’t have successful vs. the Phillies and struck out in half of his 8 plate appearances.

As the Cardinals’ offseason arrives, 5 names can form it:

1. Nolan Arenado, 3B

His resolution on whether or not to choose out or decide to no less than 5 extra years with the Cardinals is the primary forecast of iciness’s temp. Arenado has steadfastly maintained his “love” for enjoying in St. Louis and mentioned he’ll disclose his resolution later, most likely across the World Series. The Cardinals may remodel his deal to ensure a 2027 membership possibility.

2. Jordan Walker, OF/3B

Springfield Cardinals

Springfield’s Jordan Walker celebrates a house run all over a Double-A sport on Thursday, June 2, 2022, at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo.

By January, Walker may well be the No. 1 prospect in baseball. By spring, he may well be competing for a place within the opening day lineup. At 20, Walker is excelling within the outfield and manifesting energy doable towards top-flight friends within the Arizona Fall League.

3. Andrew Knizner, C

How the Cardinals really feel concerning the longtime inheritor obvious to Molina will probably be printed via how a ways they wade into business talks for a catcher or the skinny (and expensive) free-agent marketplace. They’ll no less than speak about Sean Murphy, Willson Contreras, and Tucker Barnhart.

4. Steven Matz, LHP

Wainwright will quickly make a decision if he’ll go back for 2023. Jose Quintana, a unfastened agent, would welcome an be offering from the Cardinals. But the starter who, in 2023, is already signed to support the rotation maximum is Matz, his Cardinals debut restricted via harm.

5. John Mozeliak, POBO

St. Louis Cardinals prepare for National League Wild Card series against Philadelphia Phillies

John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations of the St. Louis Cardinals, talks to the media all over a press convention earlier than the beginning of Cardinals National League Wild Card sequence towards Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022. Photo via David Carson,

Entering the general 12 months of his contract, Mozeliak has a number of individuals of his personnel about to have their contracts expire within the coming weeks, together with common supervisor Michael Girsch. Mozeliak expressed hope to stay the gang in combination, and no surprise.

This is the offseason when fresh years of making plans converge, from the past due capital enhancements the Cardinals need to make their facility in Jupiter, Florida, to the payroll rising from back-to-back seasons of pandemic and lockout affect, to the Cardinals shifting into their subsequent age.

The remaining workforce status within the NL Central was once the primary workforce eradicated from the NL playoffs. Their 4 department opponents have met with media to study the season and preview the iciness. The Cardinals do not need a presser scheduled, but when or when management does, that may be offering the primary articulations of what the workforce does now {that a} season wealthy with historical past is historical past.

The Cardinals braced for adjustments.

Expectations stay the similar — excessive and unfulfilled.


The 40-man roster the Cardinals completed the season with is illustrative of the gamers leaving, the holes that wish to be crammed, and raises coming due for some younger gamers, like Gold Glove-winning infielder Tommy Edman. The following have a look at the 40-man roster, together with gamers at the long-term harm listing, presentations monetary commitments to signed gamers. It comprises arbitration eligible gamers (years 1-2-3, 2022 wage in parentheses), and in addition pre-arbitration gamers who will make the minimal wage of $720,000 or somewhat extra in keeping with carrier time and function. And, the chart additionally presentations gamers who will probably be leaving without spending a dime company or retirement. Currently on 60-day injured listing. Arenado can opt-out of the remaining of his deal. A choice should be made via in a while after the World Series, at the newest. Of his 2023 wage, Colorado can pay $16 million and he’s agreed to $6 million deferred. (b) comprises scheduled bills associated with a signing bonus. Sources: Post-Dispatch reporting, Baseball Prospectus, MLB CBA. — Derrick Goold

Player Contract standing
Pitchers (27)
Genesis Cabrera, LHP Arb 1 ($719,200)
Jack Flaherty, RHP Arb 3 ($5 million)
Giovanny Gallegos, RHP $4.5 million
Ryan Helsley, RHP Arb 1 ($722,500)
Jordan Hicks, RHP Arb 3 ($938,000)
Dakota Hudson, RHP Arb 2 ($1.05 million)
Matthew Liberatore, LHP Pre-Arb
Steven Matz, LHP $10 million
Miles Mikolas, RHP $16.75 million (b)
Jordan Montgomery, LHP Arb 3 ($6 million)
James Naile, RHP Pre-Arb
Packy Naughton, LHP Pre-Arb
Freddy Pacheco, RHP Pre-Arb
Andre Pallante, RHP Pre-Arb
Jose Quintana, LHP FREE AGENT
Alex Reyes, RHP Arb 3 ($2.85 million)
JoJo Romero, LHP Pre-Arb
Chris Stratton, RHP Arb 3 ($2.7 million)
Drew VerHagen, RHP $3 million
Adam Wainwright, RHP FREE AGENT
Jake Walsh, RHP Pre-Arb
Kodi Whitley, RHP Pre-Arb
Jake Woodford, RHP Pre-Arb
Catchers (3)
Ivan Herrera Pre-Arb
Andrew Knizner Arb 1 ($718,300)
Yadier Molina FREE AGENT (retired)
Infielders (8)
Nolan Arenado, 3B $35 million
Paul DeJong, SS $9 million
Brendan Donovan, UT Pre-Arb
Tommy Edman, UT Arb 1 ($722,900)
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B $27 million (b)
Nolan Gorman, 2B/3B Pre-Arb
Kramer Robertson, UT Pre-Arb
Juan Yepez, 1B/3B Pre-Arb
Outfielders (6)
Alec Burleson Pre-Arb
Dylan Carlson Pre-Arb
Ben DeLuzio Pre-Arb
Corey Dickerson FREE AGENT
Lars Nootbaar Pre-Arb
Tyler O’Neill Arb 2 ($3.4 million)
Designated Hitter (1)
Albert Pujols, 1B/DH FREE AGENT (retired)

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