When news dropped that the Cardinals declined the option on Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong yesterday, things got real, fast. Even though we had already braced ourselves for some truly unexpected non-tenders and declined options this offseason, we were STILL caught off guard by this particular decision. I mean, they like Wong in St. Louis. He’s good. His contract was affordable. His performance had been steady. He’s only 30.
Alas, the financial burden of 2020 conspired with weak financial expectations for 2021, and the Cardinals made a tough decision. And – judging by the latest from Cardinals President John Mozeliak – that may not be their last:
#STLCards executive John Mozeliak said the team's payroll will come down in 2021. The Kolten Wong move was the first domino of that. "Obviously, the success of the Cardinals the last 20 years has been our gate revenue. I do think we might be more negatively affected than others."
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) October 28, 2020
First of all, Cardinals or not, this sucks. Nobody wants to see anybody lose their jobs, from ticket takers to Gold Glove second baseman, I want everybody to have a job. Second of all, I think every single team in MLB thinks they’re more negatively affected than others. It’s the rallying cry of many billionaire owners, and I can only hear it so many times before it starts to lose its potency.
But the big takeaway here is that the Cardinals payroll *is* going down in 2021. We thought it would, the Wong decision effectively confirmed as much, but now we have word from the man up top.
And, remember, although the Cardinals haven’t been cheap, they haven’t really landed any of massive free agent players over the past few years. They have made their signings, and they did trade for – and extend – Paul Goldschmidt to a healthy deal, but they missed out on guys like Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton, David Price, etc. So there is money there. Or rather, there were some bullets dodged?
Meanwhile, this begs the question: Is this the end of the line for Cardinals stalwarts like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright? Both guys are at the end of their deals and the Cardinals may be forced to let them walk. That’d be quite the changing of the guard in St. Louis, even if a lot of other familiar faces remain with the team. We’ll see. This winter is going to suck.