The Cardinals Sorta Spend To Win - Welcome to my TED Talk

The Cardinals started 2019 with a top ten Opening Day payroll and subsequently dedicated an immense amount of time to proclaiming that fact across the land. Their claim is supported by incontrovertible evidence available on the Google, so this isn't about the veracity of said claim. In fairness, they fell just short of the 8th place Astros for 8th place (a team that may or may not have spent the difference on metallic containers). The Cardinals spent money. They constantly reminded anyone who would listen that they spent money.


The amount that they spent is not the primary issue. Finishing behind the Cubs, Yankees, Nationals, Red Sox, Giants, Angels, Dodgers, and Astros in financial commitments on Day 1 of the season isn't awful. No payroll shaming here.


The problem is the way they spend money. While every team has one or two duds and the occasional albatross, the Cardinals unnecessarily burdened themselves with Fowler, Carpenter, and Cecil. Fowler and Carpenter are on the books for the next two seasons at $33M and $37M respectively.


But I'm not here to talk about the past.


I'm here to talk about the predictability with which the Cardinals will spend money to create the appearance that they are doing everything within reason to win. They "probably" could go out and bid a ridiculous sum for Gerrit Cole. They could also save their chips and enter the Mookie Betts sweepstakes next year.


They won't, and none of you expect them to. That doesn't mean you don't want either to happen. That's not saying either is a good or bad idea. It's all academic, because it's not in their risk averse DNA to swing for the fences. Maybe the fiscally responsible approach is what works best for St. Louis. Perhaps cooler heads should prevail, and it's possible that rational, logical thinking should dictate how decisions are made.


Or maybe they are just happy being competitive enough in the NL Central to placate fans to an extent.


What if I suggested that the difference between paying a Gerrit Cole or bidding on a Mookie Betts is Yadier Molina and quite possibly Yadier Molina's ego?


Molina is under contract through the 2020 season for $20M, and he's expressed interest in playing beyond next season. Unless he's willing to take a substantial pay cut, a Molina deal for 2021 would add to the stack of $15M+ AAV deals in play at that point.


A Molina 2021 campaign would mean that a Gerrit Cole deal would push the 2020 payroll into "One Cardinal Way" territory (not really, but I like this line), but there is big money that could come off the books after 2020 and huge money coming off after 2021.


Again, I'm not saying that a megadeal is a good idea. I actually feel like the opposite is true when you go back and look at the most lucrative contracts in baseball history. It's still early to judge the Trout, Harper, Machado, and Arenado contracts, but a lot can be said about Stanton, A-Rod (x2), Miggy, Pujols, Cano, and Votto. The Kershaw, Scherzer, Greinke, and Verlander deals have worked out well thus far, and odds are that Trout probably will be worth the gross domestic product of at least 30 countries.


There is obviously massive risk. There is also a ton of potential upside.


I'm just tired of hearing that they can't afford one or that they've "expressed interest". "Mystery team" be damned.


Sure, trading for Betts doesn't make much sense given what is presumed to be the asking price. Even if a team deals for Betts, they are just guaranteeing themselves an exclusive negotiating period. If Betts wants to hit free agency (and he should), then he's just an expensive rental. Bidding against the Yankees for Cole probably does not portend good things. Whatever.


Cole and Betts are both just examples of what the Cardinals could do. It doesn't have to be Cole, and it doesn't have to be Betts (either via trade or free agency). It doesn't have to be anyone you can name right now.


It would just be nice to believe that something really big could happen.


That would require something of an "all-in" approach that's completely at odds with the "sorta spend to win" organizational philosophy that seems so deeply embedded in the corporate culture.


At least get me into "So you're saying that there's a chance" territory once in a while.


-#dennis