This offseason we’ve invested a substantial amount of time in analyzing the Cardinals from every conceivable angle. It’s fun. The winter gives us plenty of time to talk about St. Louis baseball, and the interest in the Cardinals is intense. The passion absolutely blows away everything else on the local sports scene.
By now we have a good handle on the team’s strengths and weaknesses. We’re still grumbling over the payroll, and expressing frustration over moves that could or should have been made, and the opportunities that were lost. We’re still making suggestions to upgrade the roster. And the chatter will turn louder as spring training warms up in anticipation of Opening Day.
OK, but what about the other National League contenders? Do they have weaknesses and vulnerabilities? We know that the Redbirds have flaws and concerns. But we can pretty much say the same about the other five NL teams – Mets, Dodgers, Braves, Phillies and Padres – that competed in the 2022 postseason.
Just to cover more ground, I’ll include three other teams (Brewers, Cubs, Giants) that have a chance to make it to the 2023 playoffs. I also think that Arizona has a shot to surprise, but I’ll leave the Diamondbacks out for now.
I’ll list each team’s record in 2022 and their current MLB ranking in the 26-man payroll accounting. And then I’ll just zoom in on additions, subtractions and potential weaknesses.
Payroll: $194.3 million, ranked 8th.
Prominent subtractions: shortstop Dansby Swanson, closer Kenley Jansen, catcher-DH William Contreras.
Prominent additions: catcher Sean Murphy, closer Joe Jimenez.
Notable free agents retained: none.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: Good luck in finding a bunch of soft spots. Rivals are hoping that young stars regress after successful breakouts or debuts in 2022: starting pitcher Kyle Wright, outfielder Michael Harris and shortstop Vaughn Grissom. The Braves also have several stars that are trying to rebound from injuries and perform to full capacity – starting pitcher Mike Sorotka, second baseman Ozzie Albies and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. Atlanta is counting on Soroka to be the fifth starter, but he hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since 2020. One other note: starting pitcher Charlie Morton is 39 and had a 4.34 ERA in 31 starts last season.
NEW YORK METS
Payroll: $349 million, ranked 1st.
Prominent subtractions: starting pitchers Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker – and pitchers Seth Lugo and Mychael Givens.
Prominent additions: starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Jose Quintana; relievers Brooks Raley and David Robertson; catcher Omar Narvaez; outfielder Tommy Pham.
Notable free agents retained: closer Edwin Diaz, reliever Adam Ottavino, center fielder Brandon Nimmo.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: This is interesting. There’s a lot of age in the starting rotation. The Mets are banking on continued dominance from Verlander (age 40) and Max Scherzer (38.) Carlos Carrasco is 35. Quintana is 34. Import Kodai Senga is only 30 but has never pitched in the majors. Should the rotation be rocked by multiple injuries, the Mets would lose at least some of their intimidation factor.
Payroll: $238.3 million, ranked 4th
Prominent subtractions: starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Kyle Gibson; relievers Zach Elfin, David Robertson and Corey Knebel; infielder Jean Segura; outfielder Matt Vierling.
Prominent additions: shortstop Trea Turner; relievers Matt Strahm Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto; starting pitcher Taijuan Walker,
Notable free agents retained: none.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: With the free-agent signing of Trea Turner the offense is loaded, but Bryce Harper (elbow surgery) will miss a chunk of the season and most of his action will come as a DH. After a poor first season with the Phils, will outfielder Nicholas Castellanos rebound? The deep postseason run, all the way to the World Series, could impact the starting rotation. top-two starters Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola might be vulnerable after working so many innings in 2022. After Wheeler and Nola the projected rotation has Taijuan Walker, Ranger Suarez and Bailey Falter. Despite making multiple moves to reinforce the bullpen, it’s still questionable. And the Phillies likely will struggle defensively. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Phillies wander into trouble in 2023.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Payroll: $210.4 million, ranked 5th
Prominent subtractions: shortstop Trea Turner; outfielder Cody Bellinger; third baseman Justin Turner; starting pitchers Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney; relievers David Price (retired), Craig Kimbrel, Chris Martin and Tommy Kahnle; DH-outfielder Joey Gallo.
Prominent additions: designated hitter J.D. Martinez; starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard; and shortstop Miguel Rojas. The Dodgers also took out flyers on outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Shelby Miller.
Notable free agents retained: starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: The Dodger front office cut payroll to avoid more payroll-tax damages. But they still have a top-five payroll, and a bountiful farm system, and no organization is better at finding prime talent in the international pool. That said, the Dodgers lost considerable talent and had so many departures after 2022. The lineup is thin; that’s reaffirmed by the decision to install Trayce Thompson in center field. Starting pitcher Walker Buehler (elbow surgery) will miss the ‘23 season and Kershaw is 35. The bullpen could be an issue because of injuries. The Dodgers will fill in holes with graduating prospects and can swing a deal or two before the deadline. LA will take a step back after winning 111 games last season, but there’s no need to feel sorry for the Dodgers.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Payroll: $244.7 million, ranked 3rd
Prominent subtractions: Starting pitchers Sean Manea and Mike Clevinger; infielder Brandon Drury; first baseman Josh Bell; 1B-OF Wil Myers; left fielder Jurickson Profar; relievers Pierce Johnson and Craig Stammen.
Prominent additions: shortstop Xander Bogaerts; starting pitcher Seth Lugo; outfielder Adam Engel; DH Nelson Cruz; utility man Matt Carpenter.
Notable free agents retained: pitchers Nick Martinez and Robert Suarez.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: The rotation isn’t deep, Yu Darvish, 36, has experienced a decline in strikeout rate. Blake Snell struggled through the first three-plus months of 2022. Can Joe Musgrove continue to pitch as well as he has for the Padres? The two final starting-pitcher slots will likely be filled by Seth Lugo and Nick Martinez. There are clouds hanging over the San Diego rotation. But with Bogaerts coming over on a massive free-agent deal, and Fernando Tatis Jr. returning from a one-year suspension, the San Diego lineup will be even more dangerous this season — perhaps the best in the majors. But the pitching isn’t fearsome.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Payroll: $182 million, ranked 11th
Prominent subtractions: starting pitcher Carlos Rodon, first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Tommy La Stella, third baseman Evan Longoria.
Prominent additions: outfielders Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto; starting pitchers Ross Stripling and Sean Manea; catcher Roberto Perez; reliever Taylor Rogers.
Notable free agents retained: outfielder Joc Pederson.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: After bagging 107 wins in 2021 the Giants fell to .500 last season. The matchup/platoon system wasn’t as effective as in ‘2. In an attempt to boost an average overall offense that had below-average power in 2022, the Giants signed Haniger and Conforto and are hoping for a resurgence from both hitters. The rotation took a hit when Carlos Rodon signed a free-agent deal with the Yankees, but the starting-pitching depth is fine. A winning season seems reasonable, but the Giants will need a ton of offense from Haniger and Conforto to become a factor in the postseason race.
Payroll: $115 million, ranked 20th
Prominent subtractions: slugger Hunter Renfoe; outfielder Andrew McCutchen; second baseman Kolten Wong; catcher Omar Narvaez; utility man Jace Peterson; relievers Brad Boxberger, Taylor Rogers and Brent Suter.
Prominent additions: catcher William Contreras, outfielder Jesse Winker, starting pitcher Wade Miley; pitchers Joel Payamps, Bryce Wilson and Javy Guera; and utility man Brian Anderson.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: The Brewers are still the No. 1 threat to the Cardinals in the NL Central race, and that’s their best – and maybe only – way to get into the playoffs. Newcomer William Contreras will thrive at American Family Field, but there are still many questions about the lineup. The Crew will need a lot of offense from their outfield, and from the second base position. Their talented rotation will have to lead the way – but suppose the front office decides to trade Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff later in the season? And an important depth piece — young starting pitcher Aaron Ashby — has been shut down because of shoulder-related concerns.
Payroll: $176 million, ranked 13th
Prominent subtractions: catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Jason Heyward.
Prominent additions: center fielder Cody Bellinger; starting pitcher Jameson Taillon; reliever Brad Boxberger; catcher Tucker Barnhart; first baseman Eric Hosmer; 1B-OF Trey Mancini.
Notable free agents retained: starting pitcher Drew Smyly.
Potential weaknesses and concerns: the Cubs have made the effort to rejoin the competition for a playoff spot. The Cubs generally solidified their roster by improving their middle defense, adding a rising star (Swanson) and recruiting Taillon to improve the rotation. But the offense needs more power … and more ascending talent and less descending talent. The rotation looks better but still has a lot to prove. The Chicago front office had a solid offseason but could have gone in bigger to strengthen the rotation and the middle lineup.
Thanks for reading …
Pardon my typos …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. 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 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
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.