ST. LOUIS – One-third of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2023 season is officially complete. They’re only 5.5 games out of a playoff spot, but currently sit last in the National League Central. It begs the question, where do the Cardinals go from here?
Though we’re nearly another third of the season away from the MLB trade deadline, it’s never too early to look ahead. The Cardinals right now find themselves at an impasse with a variety of players on contract years, in positional log jams or underperforming from previous seasons.
It’s unlikely St. Louis would make any significant moves before July, and some recent comments from John Mozeliak seem to reiterate a wait-and-see approach. Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, joined Bally Sports Midwest’s Jim Hayes for a live one-on-one interview to discuss the organization’s mindset nearly two months ahead of trade deadline.
Mozeliak told Hayes, despite a season that started historically bad for the franchise, “I don’t anticipate us” as sellers at the trade deadline.
“Where our division is headed, it’s going to remain very competitive,” said Mozeliak. “We’re going to be looking at ways that can really help this club once we identify what exactly that looks like.”
The Cardinals haven’t found themselves in a seller’s market often throughout the 21st century. When they sell players, it’s usually more of a one-for-one type deal to address a team need, like trading outfielder Harrison Bader for a middle-rotation piece Jordan Montgomery last year.
Mozeliak said there are a couple considerations that will play a role in the team’s trade deadline strategy.
“It’s really two-fold. One, what type of baseball deals might be out for us. The other is, what type of additions are we going to look for.”
Amid such discussions, Mozeliak added, “We’re really putting a lot of pressure on our minor league system in terms of using that to reinforce our club.”
It remains to be seen if the Cardinals become more of buyers, sellers or a squad that for most part stands pat. Whether or not they are conventional sellers, a few players give the front office some things to think about….
- Tyler O’Neill has seen some setbacks after landing on the injured list due to a lower back strain. It’s unclear when the Cardinals’ longest-tenured outfielder might return and whether trade buzz may intensify. O’Neill is under team control through the 2024 season.
- The Cardinals are a bit short-handed in the outfield right now after a logjam that led to Jordan Walker’s option at the beginning of the year. If Walker comes back, and once O’Neill and Carlson return from injuries, the path to playing time for most guys gets tricky once again. This could make someone like Alec Burleson or Juan Yepez subject to various trade talks.
- St. Louis’ rotation still caries uncertainties and likely will until 2024. Adam Wainwright will retire after October, while Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery are pending free agents at the season’s end. One player that figured to potentially be a bullpen piece beyond this season (Steven Matz) is now working out of the bullpen. All of these considerations, marred by inconsistent rotation results, make it tricky as to whether the Cardinals should move one of these arms or try to add to it.
- Might the Cardinals try to find a move for Paul DeJong, Brendan Donovan or Tommy Edman with Masyn Winn waiting in the minors and looking like a future starter? If not, this could create a logjam like the outfield has in future seasons.
Sellers or not, the Cardinals have lots to think about with the upcoming trade deadline in ways to not just shape their team for this season, but 2024 and beyond.
A stretch of 19 consecutive games comes to a close for the Cardinals on Tuesday. St. Louis is 24-32 on the season and 11-7 since their last schedule break.