ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals have non-tendered four players, including two position players and two pitchers, ahead of Friday’s deadline.

A “non-tender” decision essentially means the Cardinals opt not to extend a contract offer to such players for the 2023 season while under team control, leading them to become free agents before the usual service time that would otherwise happen.

The Cardinals chose to non-tender four players, according to a team announcement via Twitter.

The most notable cut: Backup catcher Andrew Knizner, who has developed a strong rapport with pitchers and improved offensively despite limited playing time over the last few seasons.

Pitchers Dakota Hudson and Jake Woodford and infielder/outfielder Juan Yepez, who came up with a big postseason home run in 2022, were also non-tendered.

Knizner, Hudson, Woodford and Yepez all become free agents. The Cardinals active 40-man roster now stands at 36 out of a possible maximum of 40 players.

The non-tendered players could give the Cardinals flexibility of a few more millions of dollars in terms of the payroll to potentially add some new blood. Change could come via free agency or trades over the next few months.

Lead executive John Mozeliak has reiterated a desire to add up to three starting pitchers before the 2024 campaign. Parting ways with two guys who started games last season for St. Louis in Hudson and Woodford reaffirms that the Cardinals want change within their rotation.

The departures of Hudson and Woodford are also notable, given that some sources have deemed veteran starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray as two of the team’s top targets this winter. Neither has yet to make a decision.

After Friday’s moves, St. Louis will likely promote Ivan Herrera to the MLB level for good next season. Herrera is 23 years old and was just named the organization’s minor league player of the year on Friday. He could slot as the backup catcher behind veteran Willson Contreras and see a similar workload to what Knizner had the last few years.

The Cardinals, along with the 29 other MLB teams, had a Friday deadline of 7 p.m. CT to decide how many eligible players would be tendered contracts. Players with this fate can either agree to a contract offered by the Cardinals or push for more in arbitration.

Arbitration-eligible players for St. Louis in 2024 include Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Tommy Edman and JoJo Romero. For now, it seems the Cardinals continue to roster all four. O’Neill and Carlson have been subject to various trade rumors dating back to last season.

As for the non-tender decisions around Major League Baseball, a Cardinals division rival made perhaps one of the most surprising moves league-wide. The Milwaukee Brewers have parted ways with Brandon Woodruff, a two-time All-Star rich with playoff experience, albeit with an injury that will likely lead him to miss most of the 2024 season and an upcoming manager change in Milwaukee.

Buckle up, an important offseason is just getting started.