Rosters change over the course of a season thanks to injuries and slumps, but General Manager John Mozeliak noted he may have created too much flexibility in this year's club at the expense of stability in the field and in the lineup. As a result, the team only got 10 games over the .500 mark on the last day of the season, and it ended up being too late.
With that in mind, there's a diamond-full of questions waiting to be answered before the team reconvenes in Florida next spring. We go position-by-position.
Catcher: Yadier Molina had an offensive revival, even though he this year's stated goal of getting more rest failed miserably thanks to Brayan Pena's injury struggles. One of the few positions where there aren't many questions.
First Base: Matt Carpenter saw time at three of the four infield positions in 2016, and would appear best suited for first base. His batting average, on-base percentage and slugging numbers all mirrored last season's totals, mostly out of the leadoff spot, but with changes coming elsewhere on the roster, the Cardinals seem poised once again to try and move Carpenter down in the lineup into an RBI spot.
Second Base: Will Kolten Wong get the chance to prove himself in the field and at the plate on a consistent basis? Jedd Gyorko took advantage of Wong's struggles and saw the majority of his starts at second, swatting a surprising 30 HRs in the process. Wong is clearly the better defender but has to be able to make routine plays in the field and not just the spectacular. If Carpenter isn't your leadoff man, an outside-the-organization solution at second base could also be the one to hit atop the lineup. What about Dee Gordon? (Miami)
Shortstop: Aledmys Diaz made an unlikely bid for Rookie of The Year until injuries derailed his second half. He would seem like the best candidate to start at shortstop in 2017, although he may profile at second or third long-term.
Third Base: Jhonny Peralta's contract was designed to be a little more "reasonable" in the final year at $10 million, which means a few elements are at play: he could be more affordable as a trade target, particularly to an AL team that also has a DH slot; he could be the starter here, or he could split time with Gyorko.
Left Field: Brandon Moss's power numbers rebounded to the form that piqued the Cardinals' interest in bringing him over from Cleveland last season, to the point that he may be able to collect offers to rich and long for the Redbirds' tastes. His slump over the final month and a half are enough to wonder which Moss the team would get in 2017. Randal Grichuk finally figured it out offensively in 2016, and is a better defensive fit in left after countless miscues in center, so he's my likely starter.
Center Field: Here's the most likely spot for an outside-the-organization solution who would also hit leadoff. Adam Eaton (Chicago AL), Charlie Blackmon (Colorado) are the trade names you've heard about before, and likely will again. Dexter Fowler is an intriguing candidate as a possible free agent, if he and the Cubs decline mutual options for 2017.
Right Field: Stephen Piscotty's production slowed down the stretch of his first full season in the big leagues, but he still reached the 20 HR 80 RBI plateau.
Rotation: A regression following 2015's historic production from starting pitchers was all but assured, but 2016 saw too many starters unable to make it deep into games, unable to avoid early deficits and unable to hold leads. If the team desires a clear top of the rotation ace, it will have to find one through trade, as the free agent market lacks last year's luster. Otherwise, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Alex Reyes, Mike Leake and Lance Lynn are your most likely starters. Jaime Garcia looms as a trade chip after the team picks up a 2017 option.