Oh no: Did Cardinals just backtrack on major spending plan?

St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak doesn't sound like he's actually ready to spend big to get back into contention.

John Mozeliak of the St. Louis Cardinals
John Mozeliak of the St. Louis Cardinals / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

On the same day that the Chicago Cubs took a major swing by firing David Ross and hiring Craig Counsell to replace him, St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak found a way to make it worse for Cardinals fans.

Just weeks ago, the Cardinals sent signals that they'd be willing to spend big in free agency this offseason. Now Mozeliak appears to be walking that stance back.

"I think we have to be prudent on how we think through some of this. But, I definitely think the type of payroll we were going to have last year (before trades) will look very similar this year," Mozeliak said, per John Denton of MLB.com.

John Mozeliak is tamping down expectations for the Cardinals offseason

The Cardinals had a payroll of around $174 million in 2023 before trades reduced that number. The belief was that St. Louis would continue to grow their payroll in 2024 with a focus on bolstering their pitching staff. In order to be competitive in the pitching market, they needed to be willing to splash some cash.

But Mozeliak's statement makes it sound like the team is looking to stay put at around $174 million. Last year, that number ranked them 15th in MLB going into the season. If they don't increase from there, they're content to sit in the middle of the league for another year.

As it stands, the Cardinals have about $50 million to play with, so it's not like they can't make moves this offseason to strengthen the squad. But working within that figure would be incredibly limiting in terms of competing to sign the biggest names on the market.

And, sure, more savvy additions could result in better results in 2024. However, only spending $50 million essentially leaves the team at the status quo.

Cardinals fans want to see their team contend for the World Series. At this rate, contending for the NL Central is in question, especially with the Cubs getting aggressive.

That wasn't even the only area Mozeliak sounded like he was preparing fans for disappointment. He was asked about the plan to add three starting pitchers ahead of the season.

"I think we definitely need to try to find two and then maybe we find someone that can maybe split roles or something," Mozeliak said, per Denton. "You know, it'd be great if one of our younger pitchers could actually step in and pitch meaningful innings, too, throughout the year."

It may be time to put a lid on all those grand dreams for a big offseason in St. Louis.

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