Following yesterday’s 0-2 loss to the Phillies, the Cardinals’ magical 2022 season has drawn to a close. After an above-average first half going 50-44, the Cardinals moved into a higher gear, winning 43 of their final 68 games (.632 win percentage) to take the NL Central with authority. Pivoting towards the 2023 season, the Cardinals have two key players with decisions to make, and two players who are expected to formally announce their retirements.
One of the most important free agents for the Cardinals is 41-year-old Adam Wainwright who didn’t appear during the Cardinal’s Wild Card series. Wainwright, a rotation stalwart for the Cardinals since 2007, signed a 1-year, $17.5MM extension for the 2022 season on the heels of a strong 2020 and 2021 season, pitching to a 3.08 ERA in 272 innings. He followed those strong numbers in 2022 with a 3.71 ERA in 191 2/3 innings, following his trademark of limiting hard contact (87.8 MPH average exit velocity, 36.6 HardHit%). However, he was hit hard over his last five starts, giving up 35 hits and 19 runs over his last 23 2/3 innings.
Wainwright has yet to officially announce whether he will return for the 2023 season, but hinted that he has decided on his status, as reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Regardless, Wainwright is expected to release something soon, with the veteran saying postgame that “we should know pretty soon if something happens … if not, then it’s been a good run.” The 17-year veteran added that he did not “like not pitching in a playoff season,” before coyly saying that fans could take the statement one of two ways, “as it’s been a good run” or “as a motivation to never let that happen again,” per Goold.
The Cardinals’ other high-profile free agent Nolan Arenado is technically under contract through the 2027 season; however, he can opt out this offseason. Acquired from the Rockies in February 2021, Arenado has posted back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Cardinals, slashing a combined .273/.335/.513 while playing superb defense at the hot corner (30 Outs Above Average). Arenado’s 2022 season has been particularly strong, batting .293/.358/.533 with 30 homers and 15 Outs Above Average.
Arenado has $144MM and five years remaining on his current contract, but he would be the clear-cut top third basemen on the free agent market. For his part, Arenado has previously stated that he’s “not opting out” and that he “will be coming back,” per Goold. He followed up these comments after yesterday’s game saying, “I love it here. I love the guys. I just feel like I fit well with this orgnaization.” Nevertheless, the seven-time All-Star will be 37 at the end of his current contract and may opt to find a longer agreement.
Elsewhere on the Cardinals, 19-year veteran Yadier Molina and 22-year veteran Albert Pujols are set to retire with the close of the 2022 season. Both legends in Cardinals’ lore, the duo won World Series titles with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011, among numerous other awards throughout their careers. In a fitting moment, both players laced singles in their final at-bats at Busch Stadium.