The Saint Louis Cardinals have had a whirlwind couple of months.
They managed to make history with a franchise-best win streak to end the 2021 regular season that was shaping up to be forgettable. They then made a brief appearance in the playoffs before losing the National League wildcard game. Shortly after being eliminated from the playoffs it was announced that John Mozeliak fired the Cards’ manager and swiftly hired bench coach Oliver Marmol as his replacement.
In the early offseason the Cards' defensive dominance was rewarded when five Redbirds nabbed Rawlings Gold Gloves. They are Paul Goldschmidt at first, Tommy Edman at second, Nolan Arenado at third, and outfielders Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader. Cards catcher and future Hall-of-Famer Yadier Molina had to settle for finalist behind Jacob Stallings of the Pirates.
The Cardinals have also acted fast on extending their two best-loved players in catcher Yadier Molina and starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. Both will delay retirement for at least one more season.
There are currently rumors that another familiar face will return to Saint Louis. Skip Schumaker, best known for his years as a player for the Cardinals, is in talks with the Cards for a return on the coaching staff under new manager Oliver Marmol.
Reporters and fans alike will be connecting Cardinals legend Albert Pujols with the Redbirds until he either signs with another team or announces retirement. Pujols was the face of the franchise while in Saint Louis, during the years when he carried the most ferocious bat in all of baseball and wore a glove that often turned gold.
It seems that Pujols is not ready to retire, though it is not clear if he will remain on the Dodgers or seek employment elsewhere, perhaps capping off his hero’s quest by returning home. If he and the Cardinals do reach a one-year deal, his role would likely be as a part-time player with his main impact on the team being in a leadership role in the dugout.
A reunion with Pujols will inspire mixed reactions from fans, many of whom are still bitter over his departure.
Blake Newberry, with Viva El Birdos, suggests that the Cardinals may look to trade outfielder Nick Plummer.
The Cards’ minor leagues may have too much youth. A peculiar complaint, as youth is what’s desired in a team’s minor leagues, but the AA Springfield Cardinals and AAA Memphis Redbirds were among the least experienced in their respective leagues. The result could be that they’ll need a little more time in the oven before they can offer much help in Busch Stadium.
Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times has floated the potential acquisition that would most impact the 2022 season for the Redbirds. Corey Seager, who Castillo describes as, “a World Series hero” is likely headed to free agency. The Dodgers will surely lose some of their all-stars, and the Cardinals are likely hoping Seager is one of them.
Seager is the best shortstop heading to free agency this winter. The 27 year old is a former rookie of the year, a veteran of two All-Star Games, has two Silver Slugger Awards and a pair of post-season MVP trophies.
Hamstring injuries and a broken hand reduced his impact in 2021 and his value is in his bat, not his defensive abilities at shortstop. This suggests that his future might be at a different position.
If Seager does opt for free agency, Castillo expects he will meet the Cardinals, Yankees, Rangers, Nationals, and Braves as potential suitors.
The Cardinals will almost definitely invite some new pitchers into the mix, though the names offered are little more than guesses from fans and bloggers less respectable than myself.
2022 Cardinals So Far
The Cardinals have several impact players already signed. Along with Molina and Wainwright, the Cards’ will see the return of Nolan Arenado at third, Paul Goldschmidt at first, Miles Mikolas on the mound, and Paul DeJong at short.
Players eligible for arbitration include Alex Reyes, Harrison Bader, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Giovanny Gallegos, Dakota Hudson, and Tyler O’Neill.
Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez each have options on their contracts for 2022. Matt Carpenter, who has had a Cardinals career with flashes of brilliance, may have played his last game in a Redbirds’ uniform according to some prognosticators, though he and the fans will have to await the decision from the suits.
The long winter ahead is sure to be filled with more trade rumors, though the Cardinals have acted quickly on three key decisions — Molina, Wainwright, and Marmol. It might be the case that they won’t make fans wait long to see what the 2022 Cardinals roster will look like.