The end of the 2023 season is near. By the end of the day on Sunday, only 12 teams will remain, with the other 18 ballclubs packing it in for the winter and preparing for 2024.
Much to the dismay of their fans, the St. Louis Cardinals will be one of those teams, having already officially been eliminated from postseason contention. They hadn't missed the postseason since 2018, but are now set to have their worst finish since 1990.
That was the last time they finished in last place, and they did so with a 70-92 record in the NL East. This means that the upcoming offseason will be huge for St. Louis.
It's no secret that they need to add pitching in order to avoid a repeat performance of this year. Pitching is what failed them from the onset of the season. It wasn't addressed last offseason, and the Cardinals paid the price.
As such, they find themselves in this position. President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has already said that he plans to acquire three starters from outside the organization. That could come via trade or free agency.
This also means that the 2024 season could be a make-or-break year for the Cardinals, as if they do not return to contention, the future may look bleak. Adding pitching could help them improve for the future.
But there are several key members of the team that will be under the microscope next season if things go wrong.
MLB Rumors: 4 Cardinals who may not survive a disappointing 2024 season
4. Tyler O'Neill
Tyler O'Neill has been with the Cardinals for quite some time. He made his Major League debut back in 2018. It took him a while to find his footing, but he had an MVP-caliber season in 2021 and emerged as the team's starting left fielder.
However, he took a step back in 2022, a year in which he went on the injured list three times. The Cardinals gave him another chance for 2023, but he has not delivered. He missed two months with a back injury and is back on the injured list.
Meanwhile, he hit just .231 with nine home runs, 21 RBI, and a .715 OPS. The Cardinals even attempted to make him the starting center fielder this year. It didn't work out.
If he is to return in 2024, he may very well be on his last chance. He has been unable to hit consistently and also hasn't been able to stay healthy for a full season. This means that he may not be back in 2025 if he struggles again in 2024.
The Cardinals already have a logjam of outfielders and not enough places to put them. O'Neill could find himself blocked by players such as Jordan Walker, Lars Nootbaar, and even Tommy Edman, who grew accustomed to center field this year.
O'Neill provides great defense and has won two Gold Gloves, but 2024 will be a big year for him if the Cardinals decide to hang onto him.