2022 record: 93-69, first in National League Central
Offseason headlines: Getting swept 2-0 in a wild-card series might not have been the farewell St. Louis intended to give Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols, but it forced the Cardinals to quickly move on to a new era. What better way to quit living in the past than by swiping talent from a division rival, which is exactly what St. Louis did when it signed former Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to a five-year, $87.5 million deal. Aside from losing All-Star reliever Alex Reyes and LHP Jose Quintana, the Cardinals were able to keep a 2022 squad that delivered the franchise’s 15th consecutive winning season intact. St. Louis will set a franchise record if it can finish above .500 in the upcoming campaign, a goal that president of baseball operations John Mozeliak certainly hopes to achieve in the first year of an extension that he signed in February.
Spring storylines: The Cardinals will leave Grapefruit League with a winning record, and it’s been their young stars who have led the charge. Infielder/outfielder Jordan Walker and shortstop Masyn Winn — St. Louis’ top two prospects according to MLB.com — both had stellar springs but might not crack the Opening Day roster due to organizational depth. While the young stars are thriving, shortstop Paul DeJong is trying to get back on track after batting below .200 in each of the past two seasons. His comeback might be put on hold, though, as a bout with lower back pain likely will land him on the injured list for the start of the season. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Thursday that veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright will miss “several weeks” with a groin strain, forcing him to start the season on the IL.
Young guns: Walker hit .306 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs in 119 games at Double-A Springfield last season, and MLB.com has him ranked as the No. 4 prospect in all of baseball. With 18 hits in his first 57 at-bats this spring, including three homers, it’s clear the 20-year-old is doing everything he can to earn a roster spot. “Sometimes players force your hand, and that’s a beautiful thing,” Marmol said. “I love the mentality of a player coming in, and his objective is to do exactly that (force his way onto the Opening Day roster).” Right-hander Gordon Graceffo, who also saw success at Springfield, also could join the Cardinals in 2023.
Fall feeling: Although the Cardinals have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, they’ve been eliminated in the wild-card round three years in a row. St. Louis has its sights on a first-place finish in the NL Central for the third time since 2019, but the Cardinals might not have made a big enough splash in the offseason to advance to a National League Division Series.
Odds, even: St. Louis is the favorite to take the NL Central crown over at DraftKings (-125), FanDuel (-130) and Caesars (-130). The Cards also have the sixth-best odds to win the National League at FanDuel and Caesars at +1000 and +950, respectively.