The 2021 St. Louis Cardinals will be an interesting team to watch early. They acquired one of the best players this offseason in third baseman Nolan Arenado, but a lot of questions remain unanswered.
The injury bug has already hit the starting pitching rotation, which was already a bit of a question mark. Miles Mikolas may not see the mound for a while, and Kwang Hyun Kim has been down for a few weeks with a back issue.
The Cardinals went 30-28 in the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. They were one of the teams that were hit with a COVID-19 outbreak that cost them over three weeks.
Despite that, they played 45 games over 35 days to make up the lost time and wound up securing a Wild-Card spot and the No. 5 seed in the National League playoffs.
Despite having the No. 4 seed San Diego Padres on the ropes in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the shortened first round, they lost the series 2-1, ending their rollercoaster of a season.
The biggest addition was Arenado, who was acquired in a robbery of a trade with the Colorado Rockies.
It was such a heist; the Cardinals are getting an entire season of Arenado in 2021 without owing him a dime. The Rockies have picked up the tab for 2021 in the details of the deal.
This is a clear upgrade to the third base position. Matt Carpenter is a shell of his former self these days, and pairing Arenado with All-Star first basemen Paul Goldschmidt gives their lineup a formidable punch for the first time in years.
The rest of the Cardinals’ moves this offseason were not significant.
Much like their additions, the big roster losses were minimal. The biggest loss was reliever John Brebbia who was coming off of Tommy John surgery anyway.
Brebbia signed a free-agent deal with the San Francisco Giants.
They also traded outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Los Angeles Angels. It sounds like it was his request to be traded as he wasn’t going to see the lion’s share of time in right field with the Cardinals going younger there.
They were at risk of losing Cardinal legends in Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina but were able to work out deals with both to retain their services for one more season.
This might be the most significant question mark going into 2021. Despite having a lot of depth in their rotation and bullpen, there are a lot of unknowns.
Will Mikolas get back on the mound at all? Will Kim recover from this back ailment and have the type of season he had in 2020? Will the 39-year-old Wainwright be able to keep his illustrious career going the way he did in 2020?
These are just scratching the surface of the pitching questions.Will Carlos Martinez be able to be as consistent as he was from 2016-2018? Will closer Jordan Hicks bounce back to his All-Star caliber levels of 2018 after having Tommy John in 2019 and sitting out due to COVID-19 in 2020?
This team has a lot of upside in their pitching, but there is a lot of risk.
This is the area of the team that has improved the most over the last offseason. The acquisition of Arenado will give an immediate boost to what was a rather mediocre offense in 2020.
Again, much like the pitching, there are a lot of questions. Will any of the outfielders hit at a league-average or better clip? There is a lot of youth in the Cardinals outfield now that they shipped Fowler to the Angels.
Will Tommy Edman or Matt Carpenter be able to fill Kolten Wong’s shoes at 2B as well as his bat near the top of the lineup? Can Molina, at 38, keep going and play another healthy entire season? Will rookie outfielder Dylan Carlson get his career off the ground in the majors and be the contributor the Cardinals need?
This team has upside and should score runs with Goldschmidt and Arenado anchoring the lineup. There are areas where it can go wrong, however. There is not a lot outside of Goldy and Nado that are “sure things.”
3 Key Players
3B Nolan Arenado
The Cardinals will need Arenado to be the man he was in Colorado for seven years. He is key to shoring up their lineup as well as his defense at third base. He will need to be at his Hall of Fame-type numbers he was with the Rockies for the Cardinals to take the next step.
OF Dylan Carlson
Carlson had an up and down first trip to the majors in 2020. It was a strange season due to the pandemic, so he never fully got the amount of work and development in “Spring Training.” as he normally would have, and it showed. They need him to take that next step and complement the All-Stars in Goldy and Arenado.
SP Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals need Waino to throw up one more solid season, especially due to the early season injuries in the rotation. If he can just match his 2020, they will be golden with those numbers and performance.
The Cardinals will go back to a normal 162-game schedule, with nearly half of those games coming against NL Central foes. They will also play interleague against the AL Central in 2021.
BetUS has the Cardinals at 87.5 wins for 2021. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started on win totals and other season-long bets.
BetUS has the Cardinals as the favorite to win the NL Central at +120.
BetUS has the Cardinals at +2400 to win the 2021 World Series, which are really good odds for a team with this ceiling.