After months of doing nothing, the Cardinals finally did something. And by something, of course, I mean they re-signed Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, and traded for Nolan Arenado. This is one busy day for the end of the “new December”, and it has completely changed the outlook of the Cardinals 2021 season. However, more than that, these signing demonstrate the success that Mozeliak has had in creating a team that consistently contends for the division and the playoffs.
To begin with, Adam Wainwright claimed that he has better offers from good teams, yet he still chose to return to St. Louis. Obviously, sentimentality played a role in Waino taking a hometown discount, but the timing of his deal is interesting. After he signed with the Cardinals he seemed to tease the coming of the Arenado trade. This means that the Cardinals must have talked to him about it in their negotiations, and it might not be a stretch to say that it played a part in Waino coming back to St. Louis. The team clearly showed him that it wanted to win, and was not simply using the 2021 season to save money.
It is unknown how much of a role this played in Wainwright taking a hometown discount to return, but it is possible that it played a role. Either way, Wainwright certainly has to be impressed by the organization’s desire to improve the team.
Next, the Arenado trade was a big move by a front office that many times in criticized for being unwilling to make big moves. This is a statement of intent that the Cardinals intend to be psuhing for divison titles and postseason runs for the next few seasons. However, while this was a big move that showed the front office’s desire to compete, the fact that Arenado reportedly wanted to play in St. Louis is also validation of the way that the front office runs the team.
Arenado has supposedly has a somewhat longstanding interest in joining the Cardinals, specifically because of the way that the team has been competitive every year. For somebody who has just 23 postseason plate appearances at 29 years old, it is easy to see why this is appealing. This speaks to the front office’s ability to put a competitive team on the field every year.
While this does not mean that the front office has been perfect, or even close to perfect, it does mean that its effort has been commendable. There have been some problems throughout the years as there have been time when the front office may have been too passive, while there are also instances of questionable talent evaluation. Things such as trading Luke Voit only to watch him blossom with the Yankees come to mind, as well as the Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil signings and the Matt Carpenter extension. However, despite the mistakes, the team has also brought in players like Paul Goldschmidt, and trued to bring in an impact player when it signed Fowler. Moves like these, as well as the Cardinals strong history of player development, has allowed the team to be consistently competitive.
The fact that the Cardinals have not finished a season with less than 83 wins since 2007 (not counting 2020) is evidence of this. Additionally, it is also clear why this appeals to Areado, as the Rockies have won 83 or more games just twice in Arenado’s career.
At the beginning of the offseason, when the Cardinals non-tendered Kolten Wong, it seemed like Cardinals fans were set for a dreary 2021 season. However, it is admirable that the Cardinals reinvested this money into the team by bringing back Waino and Yadi and bringing in Arenado. So, while the Cardinals may be patient, and may have some talent evaluation problems, they are certainly not boring, and they know when to make a big move. This offseason, when teams like the Rockies and the Indians are selling their franchise cornerstones for salary relief and a few mid-level prospects, the Cardinals have proven that they belong at the top of the NL, and that they are willing to chase success over financial flexibility.