The St. Louis Cardinals have enjoyed consistency since 2000. They have had only one losing season in that time which came in 2007 when they finished 78-84. The Cardinals will also have only their fourth manager since 1996 leading the way this year in 35-year-old Oliver Marmol. Despite being the youngest manager in Major League Baseball, he will have some veteran leadership to ease him into the culture this season in Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and an old friend coming back home.
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The Cardinals made a few solid moves this offseason. After winning 90 games last year, they didn’t need to do too much to give themselves a shot in the NL Central. Their starting defensive alignment will be much like it was last year which is fine as their defense was one of the best in baseball last season.
Albert Pujols, 1B/DH, One Year/$2.5 Million
After spending the last 10 years in Los Angeles with both the Angels and the Dodgers, Albert comes back to where he played the first 11 years of his storied career. Baseball fans around the world are anticipating the huge ovation Pujols will get on Opening Day at Busch Stadium on Thursday. He teams up with Wainwright and Molina as they all will begin their retirement tour. Pujols has a few milestones he could reach this year that we should keep an eye out for.
- 28 more runs and he will become the 12th player to reach 1,900 and if he gets 78, he will move past Stan Musial for 10th on the all-time list
- 20 more hits he will pass Paul Molitor for 10th on the all-time list
- 93 more total bases he will pass Musial again, this time for second place all-time behind Hank Aaron
- 28 more doubles and he will become the fifth player ever to have 700
- 65 more RBIs and he will pass Babe Ruth for second behind Aaron all-time
- 21 home runs and he will become just the fourth player to have 700
Corey Dickerson, OF, One Year/$5 Million
Dickerson has bounced around a bit over the past few years. He gives the Cardinals a solid fourth outfielder and can also DH in lieu of Pujols. He should especially see plenty of at-bats against right-handed pitching. In his career, Dickerson is slashing .288/.333/.512 against them and just last year, he hit all six of his homers off of righties.
Steven Matz, LHP, Four Years/$44 Million
The southpaw has battled command issues and injuries in his career. However, pitching in the tough American League East last season for the Toronto Blue Jays may have helped the 30-year-old. Matz was 14-7 with a solid 3.82 ERA while allowing just a .725 OPS to opposing hitters. The New York native strikes out just a bit under a batter per inning, but with the great defense behind him in St. Louis, he could have a career year.
The Cardinals lost a few players, mostly from the pitching side of things. A couple of them knew St. Louis as the only organization they played for, while a few decided to retire after long careers. None of these losses to the team are earth-shattering and with the pickups the Cardinals made, the effect should be nil.
Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Wade LeBlanc, Retired
Lester was only briefly a Cardinal, but he did get his 200th victory with them. He was a very good pitcher for a long time and leaves the game with a 3.66 ERA and three World Series rings. The lefty will have an outside shot at Hall of Fame induction when he is eligible.
Miller began his career as a starter but found his niche as a high-leverage lefty who could pitch multiple innings. He was dominant in the postseason with a 0.93 ERA in 38.2 innings of work and even took home the 2016 ALCS MVP award for his filth against the Blue Jays.
Leblanc had a 13-year career both as a starter and a reliever. In fact, he made 129 starts and 129 relief appearances. Unfortunately for the southpaw, he never pitched in the playoffs.
Carlos Martinez, RHP, Matt Carpenter, 1B/3B, Minor-League Deals
Martinez signed on with the San Francisco Giants. He will stay at their complex in Arizona as he rehabs the torn ligament in his thumb which kept him out of the whole second half last year. Still just 30 years old, C-Mart played for nine seasons with the Cardinals.
Carpenter signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers just a couple of weeks ago and will start the season in Triple-A. The 36-year-old has seen age catch up with him over the past three years. He spent his whole 11-year career with the Redbirds and is a three-time All-Star.
The NL Central is likely going to come down to the Cardinals and the Brewers, sorry Cubs, Reds, and Pirates fans. The major question marks for St. Louis are in the rotation. Jack Flaherty received treatment for his ailing shoulder. There is no timetable for his return, but he will be an important piece. Wainwright is now 40 years old. Does he have another strong season in him? Can Matz build off a good year with the Blue Jays in 2021?
Milwaukee will take the division, but the Cardinals have a shot at another Wild Card spot especially with an extra team getting into the postseason fun this year. Their defense is great and their lineup is pretty deep. The pitching is a little worrisome and that is where they may falter. Likely without a late season 17-game winning streak again, the Cardinals may find themselves in a dogfight for a playoff spot in September.
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