ST. LOUIS -- While revealing a host of changes to come on the Cardinals' 2023 coaching staff on Wednesday, Cards president John Mozeliak said that he hopes the team won’t have any similar sort of turnover at third base as it relates to superstar Nolan Arenado.
Arenado, who hit at least 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs for the seventh time in his career, has until five days following the conclusion of the World Series to announce whether he will return to the Cardinals or opt out of his contract and become a free agent. Mozeliak said he met with Arenado in Southern California on Monday to try to get a sense of where the superstar third baseman stands on his future with St. Louis.
Mozeliak said Arenado -- a finalist for what could become his 10th consecutive Gold Glove Award -- wanted to know about the franchise’s plan to increase its payroll for 2023 and potentially add more offensive firepower to better protect the third baseman and fellow MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup.
“I would just say that I’m optimistic that this will have a positive resolution, and like I said, I hope that’s something we get some news on sooner rather than later,” Mozeliak said. “I don’t think it’s about re-working the deal. He’s just trying to use him time and sort through some things.
"He asked question on how we’re thinking about the club, what we’re thinking about in the future and topics like, ‘How are we going to deploy our resources?’ It was a very positive conversation. Again, I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can come to a place where we’re both very happy and have that understanding. He just wants a little time to think through that.”
On the heels of bench coach Skip Schumaker being announced as the next manager of the Marlins on Tuesday, Mozeliak revealed that hitting coach Jeff Albert and veteran pitching coach Mike Maddux will not return in 2023, and bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd will be reassigned within the organization.
Mozeliak was prepared to offer Albert and Maddux contracts for the 2023 season and beyond, but both decided that they would rather not return. Mozeliak said that Albert cited the blame he took on social media for some of the Cardinals' hitting woes -- early in the season and again in a two-game playoff loss to the Phillies in the NL Wild Card Series -- as his reasoning in wanting to move on.
“Both [Maddux and Albert] have their own separate narratives,” Mozeliak said. “In [Maddux’s] case, he’s just done it for so long and he’s looking for a change of pace. If you look at Jeff’s particular case, I think there were some levels of frustration, and he took a lot of the blame when things weren't going well, and he’s open to change. … I was prepared to offer [Albert] a contract, but before I even got that out of my mouth, he had told me he wasn’t coming back.”
Matt Holliday, a Class of 2022 Cardinals Hall of Fame inductee, is expected to be considered as a replacement for Albert as the team’s hitting coach, a source within the organization said.
Holliday, who starred for St. Louis from 2009-16, said months ago that he would consider a potential job offer of coaching at the Major League level if the right opportunity came along. He is currently the outfield and hitting coach for Oklahoma State University and he is credited with helping former Cardinal Matt Carpenter have a renaissance power season with the Yankees prior to suffering a season-altering foot injury.
In addition to working feverishly to try to reload the coaching staff, Mozeliak said the organization is working to formulate plans on how it will approach free agency in an attempt to “augment the offense.” Superstar slugger Albert Pujols, who hit 18 second-half home runs to reach 703 for his career, is gone from the lineup after retiring. So, too, is Yadier Molina, meaning the club will be in the market for a catcher for the first time in more than two decades.
After the Cardinals drew 3.3 million fans in 2022 -- second in MLB only to the Dodgers' 3.6 million fans -- Mozeliak said the franchise will have an enhanced payroll for '23. The Cards had MLB’s 12th-highest payroll this season at $170 million, per Spotrac. However, the club was sixth in the National League and far behind powerhouse organizations such as the Mets ($282 million), Dodgers ($275 million), Phillies ($255 million), Padres ($237 million) and Braves ($200 million).
The Phillies, who added free-agent sluggers Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber in recent years, eliminated the Cardinals in the first round of the playoffs and went on to also beat the 101-win Braves and the Padres. San Diego toppled New York and Los Angeles -- both with 100-plus wins in the regular season -- after making bold moves at the Trade Deadline to acquire Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury.
“The good news is we anticipate our payroll going up next season -- I know it will -- because we had a lot of success at the gate this year and I want to thank our fans for that,” said Mozeliak, who repeatedly pointed to the emergence of prospects such as outfielder Jordan Walker, shortstop Masyn Winn and pitcher Gordon Graceffo factoring into any free-agent plans the Cards make this offseason. “You get past the pandemic, and get to where we are today, we’re one of the few clubs that from an attendance standpoint, we got close to pre-pandemic numbers. So, I definitely know that our payroll will go up.
“It’s a long season and you have to build a roster to [combat] that,” he added. “We know what we can do and what we’re capable of doing, but we’re still going to be a pipeline-driven organization, we’re still going to try and draft well. If we continue to do those things, we think we can continue to have the success that we’ve had.”