For the most part, we anticipated good news on the Nolan Arenado opt-out drama. But until he made it official over the weekend, there was at least a little anxiety over his St. Louis future. No worries. Arenado is back. He’s staying for a long time. He really does love playing baseball here.

The Arenado-STL relationship is as strong as we hoped and thought it was. Arenado reaffirmed his commitment to the Cardinals and St. Louis, and didn’t even wait for the post-World Series deadline to finalize his decision.

Arenado took action soon after hosting Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak at a pleasant get-together in Los Angeles. The discussions included Arenado’s desire to know how Mozeliak planned to improve a good – but not great – team in 2023. Arenado evidently liked what he heard from Moz, who apparently conveyed his yearning to upgrade the roster in a more substantial fashion. We’ll see. But at least the meeting went well.

The best third baseman in baseball is contractually obligated to the Cardinals through 2027. And unless there was an adjustment that hasn’t been revealed, the Cardinals didn’t have to add financial sugar to Arenado’s existing deal. If we learn otherwise, then we’ll revisit this accordingly. But for now I’ll just assume that Arenado didn’t push the Cardinals for extra money in exchange for making the opt-out go away.

The expected good news became great news.

Arenado is guaranteed $144 million over the next five seasons for an annual average salary of $28.8 million. But the great news is even better news when we pause to remember the financial terms that were part of the trade between the Rockies and Cardinals.

The Rockies still owe the Cardinals $31.5 million to cover a share of Arenado’s salary. Colorado is paying $16 million of his $35 million salary in 2023. After that, the Rockies’ contribution to the St. Louis Arenado Fund is $5 million annually from 2024 through 2026. As MLB Trade Rumors and others in the media pointed out, Colorado’s $16 million share of Arenado’s 2023 salary is more than the Rockies are paying any player on their current ‘23 payroll except for Kris Bryant.

What’s next?

Mozeliak has first baseman Paul Goldschmidt under contract for two more seasons. Arenado is set for five more seasons. Both are foundational talents who will finish high on the leaderboard in the National League MVP voting.

OK, so what else is there to count on?

The catcher position is wide open. And that’s an absolute positive, because St. Louis catchers ranked dead last in the majors in WAR over the last two seasons combined. Yadier Molina, Andrew Knizner and other catchers were so ineffective, they came in BELOW the replacement level as a group over the last two seasons. What will the Cardinals do with this splendid opportunity to secure a significant upgrade?

The starting rotation is loaded with No. 3 and No. 4 starters that are low on strikeout power. I’ve been yapping about this for weeks. This offseason we’ll see if the front office has any desire to reassess their rotation composition and take action.

As usual, the Cardinals vastly overrate their own bullpen. In 2021 the STL relievers ranked 20th in the majors with a 23 percent strikeout rate. And after the baseball bosses wasted money on free-agent contracts for minor-league quality relievers, the bullpen fell to 27th in 2022 with a strikeout rate of 21.2%.

The unsettled, vulnerable outfield has more questions than proven track records. Mega prospect Jordan Walker is close to the majors, but we don’t know if he’ll have a legitimate opportunity to make the big club coming out of 2023 spring training. Or how quickly he would acclimate to MLB pitching.

Offensively the middle infielders were average (collectively) in 2022, with a .690 OPS that ranked 15th among MLB middle-infield groups. I’m positive about Tommy Edman for his exceptional defense and baserunning skills, and he was slightly above the league average offensively last season. I believe second Nolan Gorman will improve in his sophomore season after hitting 14 homers, slugging .421 and posting a 106 OPS+ that made him six percent above league average offensively – but will Gorman take on a primary DH assignment in 2023? I’m assuming Brendan Donovan will continue in his super-utilitarian role, as he should. Will the Cardinals clutter the middle-infield roster with Paul DeJong for a third consecutive year? How does that make them better? There’s a need for an authentic and proven impact bat. We all know that. But does the front-office view this as a priority or a luxury?

I don’t expect the Cardinals to hit all of these areas hard, with an all-out determination to field the best possible team in 2023. I know better than that. Ownership-management is too cautious for that. But with more payroll space available – in part because of the Rockies’ generosity in defraying the cost of Arenado’s contract – the ownership-management has an obligation to be more aggressive. Do it. Money. Trades. Just be more ambitious, and think bigger.

Guarantees don’t exist in postseason baseball, but focusing on the right things will give you a better shot to win when the weather is colder and the pressure is heated. To win in the big-game season, it’s necessary to have abundant doses of power pitching and power hitting.

Now that Arenado has stayed on board, and with Goldschmidt in place for at least two more seasons, this is the time for action.

Over the last two seasons, here’s where the Cardinals ranked among the 30 MLB teams in production and performance from the first base and third base positions:

No. 1 in the majors in batting average, slugging, OPS, doubles and runs batted in. And No. 2 in homers. Plus No. 3 in onbase percentage and runs scored. (Not to mention all of that fantastic defense the Cardinals benefit from at 1B and 3B.)

When your team has two massive building blocks set in place to work with, why wouldn’t you be inspired to put a better and more complete team around them? Doesn’t it make a helluva lot of sense to do it now, when both are still in their primes? Arenado will be 32 next season. Goldschmidt turned 35 on Sept. 10 of this year. Some urgency would be swell.

For their part, Arenado and Goldschmidt can’t continue to go bankrupt offensively in the postseason. As I’ve noted several times, they have played three games as St. Louis teammates in the playoffs … all of which ended in a thud … three losses. That’s hardly surprising considering that Goldy and Nado went a combined 2 for 22 in the three games with no extra-base hits or runs batted in and seven strikeouts.

That’s small-sample stuff – extremely so – and in no way is comparable to rating a player over a 162-game regular season schedule. But yes, they need to deliver more offense in the postseason. But it shouldn’t be all about them; clearly the Cardinals need to have more offensive talent (especially power) to accompany Goldschmidt and Arenado into the playoffs. When the pitching is so robust in the postseason, it’s never healthy to depend so heavily on two hitters.

You need to bring a deeper, stronger lineup to the Octoberfest. The Cardinals are 4-11 in the postseason with Goldschmidt, and 0-3 with Arenado. That’s bad. No question about it. But I would argue that management creates a postseason vulnerability by not having more hitters that can do damage. And management also leaves the team vulnerable by continuing to take shaky bullpens and limited starters into the postseason.

Mozeliak made two great, one-sided trades to bring Goldschmidt and Arenado to St. Louis. Mozeliak also made sure to do whatever he could to secure them for the future. He gave Goldy a five–year contract extension before that kicked in for the 2020 season. And Mo’s reassurances to Arenado — about improving the team — was undoubtedly a factor in the star player’s decision to remain with the Redbirds.

Now comes the most difficult part for Mozeliak and chairman Bill DeWitt Jr: they have to make moves to make the most of two likely Hall of Famers – and the best first-base, third-base combo in baseball. The top levels of the Cardinal hierarchy need to opt-in by going all-in.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.

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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.


Bernie Miklasz
Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.