The Milwaukee Brewers’ biggest rival over the past few seasons, the St. Louis Cardinals, have been nothing short of a disaster this season. The team is 38-52 and currently sits 11 games out of the NL Wild Card spot.
BrewWhile Cardinals star Nolan Arenado would be surprised to be traded (the Cards almost never sell, especially big stars), he conceded he couldn’t be shocked the way things are going in St. Louishttps://t.co/i6xAZTRiS4
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 11, 2023
Should we have seen this coming? Yes and no. Without franchise cornerstones Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, you lose some of that leadership aspect. However, they still have Adam Wainwright and a boatload of young talent. So what has caused their season to be such a disaster?
Why are the St. Louis Cardinals in this position?
Coming into this season, the Cardinals had high expectations to win their division and potentially compete for a World Series, but that hasn’t gone to plan because of their pitching woes. (Via ESPN) St. Louis has a team ERA of 4.55 (25th in the Majors). The Cardinals were banking on their starting rotation with Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas, Jordan Montgomery, and Steven Matz but it hasn’t panned out with top dogs Flaherty (4.27 ERA) and Mikolas (4.23 ERA) underperforming.
The other component is the roster construction. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak didn’t adequately replace Yadier Molina. They paid Willson Contreras like he was one of the top catchers in the league but there was a reason why the Cubs were so willing to give him up. Then there was a report that the Cardinals considered moving Contreras primarily to left field and DH a month into the season amidst their free fall before deciding against that plan.
The biggest overlying issue with the Cardinals is upper-management. They should have never fired Mike Shildt because he had three successful seasons at the helm and fired a coach after going 90-72 due to “philosophical differences.” This shows that management for the Cardinals has been the biggest reason why they have underperformed over the last few seasons.
The Cardinals season was bound to be a disaster after manager Oli Marmol called out Tyler O’Neill for a “lack of hustle,” in a game against the Atlanta Braves on April 4. That’s when the alarm bells should have sounded because calling out a player less than a week into the season shows that the cohesiveness that was there with Molina and Pujols had all but dissipated once Marmol didn’t have those guys around anymore.
There was also that curious decision to send down top prospect Jordan Walker after 20 games in the Majors despite batting .274 with .718 OPS. Walker has since been called back up, but why send him down when he’s shown to hit well at the major league level?
What should the St. Louis Cardinals do at the trade deadline?
Do you remember when the Cubs, two seasons ago, traded away Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez for prospects? That’s what the Cardinals should start doing. They should start anew by trading away Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. Arenado isn’t an unrestricted free agent until 2028, and Goldschmidt isn’t up until 2025, but with the pitching being so volatile and their team being top-heavy, trading Arenado and Goldschmidt is the perfect solution to recoup some assets and get back to being in a competitive window.
Longer-term, the Cardinals could look to move on from Mozeliak. He’s been in the position for 16 years and has put together some competitive teams, but traded away premium young talent (Randy Arozarena, Sandy Alcantara, and Marco Gonzalez). The Cardinals have drafted well, but have traded away high-level prospects for players who ultimately didn’t live up to expectations in St. Louis.
St. Louis at this point, should play for next season they are not getting back in the wild-card race and should cut their losses this season and become sellers at the trade deadline.