Perhaps the biggest offseason question facing the Cardinals was resolved over the weekend when Nolan Arenado informed the team he would bypass his chance to test the free agent market. He’ll play out the final five years and $144MM on his deal with St. Louis, staying with the Cards through 2027.
The star third baseman would almost certainly have found a stronger financial offer if he hit the open market. He’s likely to be an NL MVP finalist after arguably the best season of his career, a .293/.358/.533 showing paired with his typical elite defense. Even heading into his age-32 campaign, he had a strong case for a six-year deal that bested the $28.8MM average annual value remaining on his contract.
Arenado has maintained on a few occasions that he’s happy in St. Louis, however. He reiterated that sentiment in speaking with Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch about his decision over the weekend. “For me, to get traded to St. Louis was a very complicated deal and it wasn’t easy to get here,” Arenado told Goold. “There was a lot of time and effort put into it. It meant a lot to me they went that far beyond for me. I really appreciate their effort they took to get me here and I want to hold up my end of the bargain. Everything has been, for me since I’ve been here, better than I thought it would be.”
St. Louis made the postseason in each of Arenado’s first two seasons with the club, including an NL Central-winning team this year. Colorado reached the playoffs twice during his eight years on the roster, both times as a Wild Card entrant. Arenado spoke publicly about how meaningful he found it to be part of a division-winning roster in the immediate aftermath of St. Louis clinching the Central, and Goold writes he expressed that again during a sit-down with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak last week.
While the Cardinals have had plenty of regular season success over the last two years, they’ve gone 0-3 in the postseason and been dispatched from the playoffs quickly (first in the 2021 Wild Card game, then in the newly-implemented Wild Card series). Mozeliak and his staff will look to bolster the roster again this winter in hopes of positioning the team for a deeper postseason run. The Cards’ front office head told reporters last week that ownership had signed off on a payroll increase and highlighted catcher as an area the team would look to address over the coming months.
They’ll also work with manager Oliver Marmol about building a coaching staff that saw a trio of notable departures. Neither hitting coach Jeff Albert nor pitching coach Mike Maddux are returning in 2023, and bench coach Skip Schumaker departed to become the Marlins manager. That leaves St. Louis to fill three key voids, and they could look to a marquee name for one of those spots.
John Denton of MLB.com reported last week that Matt Holliday is expected to garner some consideration for the hitting coach vacancy. Holliday played for St. Louis from 2009-16, a tenure which included four trips to the All-Star game and four appearances on MVP balloting. He raked at a .293/.380/.494 clip over his eight seasons with the club.
Holliday last appeared in the big leagues in 2018 and currently coaches at Oklahoma State, where his brother Josh Holliday is the head baseball coach. Reports last offseason suggested Matt Holliday would have some interest in the St. Louis managerial vacancy that eventually went to Marmol. Whether he’d be willing to assume a spot on Marmol’s staff is unclear, but the 42-year-old left open the possibility in an appearance on Hot Take Central on 590 The Fan in St. Louis this morning (Twitter link with audio). Asked about the chance to replace either Schumaker or Albert as bench coach or hitting coach, Holliday noted he’s not yet heard from Mozeliak but indicated he was open to having a conversation.
“I haven’t spoken with Mo yet,” Holliday said. “I think there’s a chance that I will have a conversation about what that might look like. I’m not going to say ’no,’ but I’m not going to say ’yes’ either. I think I probably will, at some point, have a conversation with Mo and Oli about what that could look like — being part of the organization in some capacity. I’m not quite sure, I don’t have an answer just yet for you.” That’s hardly a firm declaration Holliday will rejoin the St. Louis franchise, but it raises the possibility of the seven-time All-Star being in touch with key Cards decision-makers this winter.