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What grade did the St. Louis Cardinals offseason get? | Locked On Cardinals

The Cardinals made one big move with free-agent catcher Willson Contreras. Was it enough to call the offseason a success?

ST. LOUIS — It’s February, so baseball season is almost here. That also means that the offseason is coming to an end with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp in a few weeks and now is the time when MLB teams are being evaluated for the moves they made to improve their teams before the start of the 2023 season.

While some teams, namely the New York Mets, received high marks by outspending everyone else in baseball to improve their roster, other teams had average to bad offseasons. The St. Louis Cardinals were one of those middle-of-the-road teams, receiving a C+ grade from The Athletic, which ranked and graded all 30 MLB teams’ offseasons. 

Why did they receive that grade? This is what Katie Woo, who covers the Cardinals for The Athletic had to say. 

“It was an underwhelming offseason for St. Louis with rising payroll totals falling far short of both the front office’s and the fans’ expectations. The Cardinals made three major moves. Two of those were retaining Nolan Arenado and Adam Wainwright. The third was signing Willson Contreras, filling an obvious need behind the plate while simultaneously boosting the team’s offense. St. Louis does deserve some credit for acquiring the best free-agent backstop available and addressing two birds with one stone, but you don’t get a top grade for doing the minimum.”

On the Locked On Cardinals podcast, host JD Hafron discussed how the Athletic graded the team. 

He said, “The team made one significant move, right? The one big move they made was to land their free-agent catcher Willson Contreras. Just what the doctor ordered.”

Hafron added, “Not only did he (Contreras) fill a major need for them but it also keeps their prospect pool intact.” He goes on to mention how there are some Cardinals fans out there who think the team shouldn’t have held onto those prospects and that they should have traded for Sean Murphy instead. Murphy ultimately ended up going to the Braves in a three-way trade between Atlanta, the Milwaukee Brewers, and Oakland A’s. 

Contreras, who played for the Cubs for the previous seven seasons, will be replacing Yadier Molina who retired after 19 seasons with the Cardinals. Contreras has big shoes to fill but he was willing to step into that role and the Cardinals rewarded him with a five-year/$87.5M contract. 

Hafron likes the move and says Contreras fills two needs the Cardinals had: They needed a starting catcher and they need a big bat. He’s not only replacing Molina as the catcher but in a way, he’s only replacing Albert Pujols’ bat in the lineup. This doesn’t mean Cardinals fans should expect Contreras to hit like Pujols but they also shouldn’t expect him to be offensively challenged like Molina was toward the end of his career.

The one thing that may frustrate Cardinals fans, and Hafron touches upon this in the latest episode of the show; the Cardinals were linked to a few big free agents this offseason like Carlos Rodon and Dansby Swanson. At least there were reports from a few outlets about the possibility. Rodon eventually signed with the New York Yankees and Swanson went to the Cardinals' NL Central foe, the Chicago Cubs. 

Then, at the winter warm-up, Cardinals officials put those rumors to rest saying they weren’t really engaged in talks with any of those guys which brought even more frustration to the fanbase because as Hafron says, “That deflated our balloon even more because now we know they didn’t even try.”

But, the Cardinals aren’t a bad team. At all. You can expect them to be what they always are: a contender who will be at the top of the NL Central Division with a chance to make the playoffs and advance. Still, some of their fans probably wish ownership would step out of their comfort zone and make some big splashy moves like the Mets, the San Diego Padres, or even the Philadelphia Phillies who had a pretty good offseason as well. 

So is the C+ grade fair to the St. Louis Cardinals? Yes. But it could have been worse. They could have been the Chicago White Sox who received a failing grade. 

Be sure to subscribe to Locked On Cardinals wherever you get your podcasts or watch the show on YouTube! 

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