Five things to follow with the St. Louis Cardinals and Blues in 2024

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ST. LOUIS – It’s hard to sugarcoat it. The 2023 calendar year was well below the standards of the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues.

It’s the first time since 2007 that both the Cardinals and Blues ended up with losing seasons in the same calendar year. There were some nice sentimental moments along the way, like Adam Wainwright winning his final start and Brayden Schenn becoming a captain. And St. Louis CITY SC’s surprise inaugural season certainly offered some relief for the local sports scene.

That said, there’s lots left to be desired as St. Louis braces for 2024. As Gateway City’s sports community rings in the new year, here’s a brief look at five things worth following for the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues.


1. Year II of Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn

The Cardinals debuted their two top prospects last season in Jordan Walker and Masyn Winn. Best buddies in the minor league, both became regular lineup fixtures near the end of the 2023 campaign. It would seem the starting jobs in right field and shortstop are theirs to earn this spring.

Walker cracked the Opening Day roster out of spring training, began his MLB career on a 12-game hitting streak and finished fourth among all Cardinals in hits, despite an abrupt month-long stint in the minor leagues.

Winn will retain rookie eligibility into the next season. He ranked among Triple-A’s leaders in hit prior to his callup and showed strong defensive abilities in his season’s final weeks. Winn will likely bat leadoff or ninth if he’s a regular. Walker’s lineup spot remains to be determined, but his power potential makes him a strong middle-of-the-lineup candidate.

2. Retooled rotation

Plagued by persistent pitching woes, the Cardinals finished among baseball’s worst teams in ERA (4.79), quality starts (48) and blown saves (28) last season, all in the lower quartile of MLB teams. Longtime rotation piece Adam Wainwright is no longer in the picture. Opening Day starter Miles Mikolas should have a rotation spot secured if healthy. The rotation will undoubtedly look different around him.

The Cardinals proved aggressive in the early weeks of the offseason, signing AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray, former rotation piece Lance Lynn and Mizzou alum Kyle Gibson. Gray offers the most starpower of the three.

The new trio has been reliable in covering innings in the past, but all are in their 30s and have been a bit inconsistent in recent years, especially Lynn and Gibson. For the fifth spot, St. Louis will need to decide if southpaw Steven Matz is healthy to go or if a younger arm like Zack Thompson or Matthew Liberatore can fill the spot.

3. Contract years for Paul Goldschmidt and Oli Marmol

The Cardinals will use 2024 to decide if two notable pieces are around in 2025 and beyond. First baseman and 2022 NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt and third-year manager Oli Marmol will both enter contract years with the new season.

Goldschmidt has spent his last five seasons with the Cardinals, averaging around 30 home runs, 100 RBI and a .286 batting clip at a full-season pace and becoming a trusted leader as more youngsters have broken into the MLB scene. The Cardinals intend to discuss a potential contract extension soon, but it’s unclear how close a new deal is to becoming a reality.

Marmol, the manager of St. Louis’ worst season in quite some time, acknowledged his contract situation during the Winter Meetings and told reporters, “If you’re good, they keep you.” It doesn’t appear the Cardinals have discussed the possibility of a contract extension this winter, and perhaps Marmol will have a chip on his shoulder to rebound with former catcher Yadier Molina also expressing interest in a possible manger’s role.

4. Tribute to the Negro Leagues

The Cardinals will play every MLB opponent in at least one series for the second straight season, and there aren’t too many unusual developments with the schedule. However, they will have an opportunity to play on a unique stage on June 20th against the San Francisco Giants.

The Cardinals and Giants will head to Rickwood Field and Birmingham, Alabama, for one game that represents a tribute to the Negro Leagues. The venue was the former home of the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons. Having hosted baseball games since 1910, it’s America’s oldest-standing professional ballpark. The game comes one night after Juneteenth, and it will include a variety of activities that connect baseball with the observance.

5. Who wins the Central?

Since the turn to the 2020s, the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers have consistently been the favorites to win the NL Central. The competition seems a little more wide open with the new year.

The Chicago Cubs proved they could stay competitive while retooling, missing the postseason by a difference of one game. The Cincinnati Reds finished just behind them, debuting several exciting rookies last season. And even the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed a brief stretch through early-May as the top dogs in the division.

If the Cardinals see improved results in pitching, it’d be hard to count them out of the picture. The Brewers will look to build a new identity after losing well-respected manager Craig Counsell to the Cubs and non-tendering former All-Star pitcher Brandon Woodruff. Draft Kings Sportsbook currently gives the Cubs (+185) a small edge over the Cardinals (+190) in the favorites to win the Central, by far the easiest path back to October.


1. Drew Bannister’s audition

It seems the Blues have found some momentum since the tough decision to part ways with Craig Berube in mid-December. The Blues are now 6-2-0 and averaging around three goals per game since Drew Bannister took over as interim head coach.

Bannister’s early conversations with media have evolved around accountability. He’s worked with roughly half the roster in minor-league settings before, so he has a vision of what the Blues should look like when the team is competing in its best form. He’s also shown empathy with players, backing Jordan Kyrou after an odd situation that followed the coaching change. On the ice, Bannister’s biggest challenge is improving a power play still among the league’s worst in production.

2. The Binny and Hofer goalie tandem

Jordan Binnington began the 2023-24 season strong, but that’s been mixed in with some sloppy performances since Thanksgiving. Rookie Joel Hofer has earned three of the last five starts to close 2023, and he shut down to high-powered offenses in recent outings against the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers.

Binnington opened the season starting roughly two-thirds of the Blues games, but it’s gravitated closer to a half-and-half timeshare in net since the start of December. This could become more of a trend next year. Binnington is still the clear No. 1, but a little more rest couldn’t hurt if the Blues push for playoffs down the stretch.

3. Next steps for Robert Thomas

One of few players remaning from the 2019 Stanley Cup team, Robert Thomas has elevated has elevated his game to new heights this season. He’s on track for his second point-per-game campaign and has earned more responsibility on the penalty kill units.

Thomas has 32 even-strength points this season, the third-most in the entire league. His ice time has climbed up to 21 minutes per game since the coaching change, well above his career norm of 16:30. He’s centered a line often with Pavel Buchnevich and Jordan Kyrou in recent weeks, and perhaps his biggest test for next year will be helping his wingers find consistency after slow starts.

4. Tough second-half schedule

The St. Louis Blues will enter the new year in striking distance of a Wild Card spot, just two point behind the eighth-place Nashville Predators. However, that could be a little deceiving than it looks as St. Louis has cleared a relatively easy portion of their schedule.

To start the new year, the Blues will face six teams currently in playoff position. They also have multiple matches remaining against tough customers in the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins. A mid-March roadtrip could make or break this team’s playoff chances. It consists of five games in eight days on the east coast, all against teams currently in playoff spots. The Blues have proven resilient at times through the coaching change. They’ll need more of that to stay afloat in the playoff picture.

5. Contenders or pretenders?

General manager Doug Armstrong has been adamant about not wanting to put the Blues through a traditional rebuild, but it’s hard to back those remarks when St. Louis could potentially miss playoffs for a second straight season. Unlike last year, there aren’t as many big-name veterans the Blues can dump for picks or prospects if they fall further behind in the playoff race.

Without much cap space to get creative and many skaters signed on lengthy deals, the current core is one the Blues will have to win or lose for the next several years. Hockey analysts at MoneyPuck give the Blues only a 4% chance to make playoffs as of Saturday, even within close pace of many contenders. The best-case scenario for the Blues right now is avoiding lengthy losing streaks, like last season’s eight-game skid. Make it into playoffs, anything could happen.

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