June 18, 2024

The Cardinals are playing better, but they have yet to persuade everyone that they are back. In fact, MLB Network analysts have criticized them for not engaging in a complete rebuild.

The Cardinals have been playing better baseball in recent weeks. In fact, they’re now only five games behind first place in the NL Central, have gained control of third place, and are three games away from.500.

A sweep of the Orioles bolstered fans’ hope that the team may be turning a corner. You may blame it on baseball’s peculiar nature, but it’s still a remarkable performance.

However, not everyone is persuaded that they have found it out. Brian Kenny of MLB Network identified the Cardinals as one of four clubs that need to rebuild, along with the Red Sox, Mets, and Padres. He, Christopher Russo, and Bob Costas criticized the Cardinals for being trapped in the middle.

Cardinals listed as potential rebuild candidates

This assessment from MLB Network analysts may provoke mixed opinions, particularly among Cardinals supporters.

To be clear, I am quite encouraged by the Cardinals’ current performance and hope that it is sustainable such that they do not need to rebuild. If they keep doing this, there will be no need to rebuild.

But Costas made an excellent point: the third Wild Card position is forcing teams to hesitate before attempting a rebuild. In the Cardinals’ instance, this makes sense. They’re barely 1.5 games behind the final berth.

However, their play has deteriorated over the past two years. They finished last in 2023, with a 71-91 record. This year, they’re better, but still below.500. They’ve only gone past that threshold once this season, which is a worry.

So, the third Wild Card berth could be the reason teams like the Cardinals are hesitant to rebuild. Obviously, it would be difficult to inform such a devoted fan base as St. Louis that a reconstruction was imminent. Fans would not take it well because the Cardinals do not engage in rebuilding.

That final Wild Card place gives clubs who would otherwise have little hope reasons to be optimistic, especially since the last two NL Pennant winners, the Phillies and Diamondbacks, were the third Wild Card teams.

 

MLB Network's Brian Kenny talks Trout extension and more with HH - Halos  Heaven

 

I stand by my view that the Cardinals do not require a complete rebuild. That would not go over well with the crowd. But the moment has come to build around its young players, including Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, Masyn Winn, and Nolan Gorman.

Players like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are past their peak, so building around them no longer makes sense. In some ways, the Cardinals are caught in the middle, attempting to create a club around older stars, which isn’t working.

So, if the Cardinals are under.500 at the deadline and trapped in the middle, they must sell away players like as Goldschmidt, Arenado, and Ryan Helsley. Helsey, in particular, may bring the Cardinals a haul that includes Major League-ready players and possibly a top prospect or two. These elements could then benefit the Cardinals in 2025 and beyond.

When you think about it, that might be the easiest way for the Cardinals to regain contention and usher in a new era. Of course, this is not a complete rebuild, but rather a transition away from Goldschmidt and Arenado and toward a younger core.

The Cardinals’ young stars are massive pieces who, when on their game, can carry a team. We’ll see if they can maintain their good play, but if not, the focus should be on the future.

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