The Cubs’ biggest rival may be less competitive in the offseason market than usual, according to one report. Mark Saxon, a Cardinals beat writer, says a lack of ticket sales will drive down the team’s payroll next season.
The Cardinals declined Kolten Wong’s $12.5 million option on Wednesday, according to Saxon. However, this doesn’t mean the Cardinals are going to cut ties with all their expensive players.
“Mozeliak wouldn't say what percentage the payroll will go down in 2021,” Saxon wrote on Wednesday. “But he said the team's primary winter focus will be on trying to retain its own free agents, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, and on exploring in-house upgrades. It might not be much of a hot stove season for the Cardinals.”
Less competition on the market within the division certainly would help the Cubs as they try to retool their roster. The Cubs have a big decision ahead of them as Jon Lester’s $25 million option looms, and José Quintana and Tyler Chatwood are set to hit free agency. The Cubs have also made it clear they’re looking to improve their contact hitting in the lineup. That solution could come from an outside addition.
In 2020, the NL Central ended up being a tight race with the Cubs winning the division by three games over the Cardinals. Would a bigger payroll gap increase the gap in the standings next season? Maybe not. Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays who made it to the World Series with a bottom-five payroll in the league. So while Cubs fans may get excited that the Cardinals may not be as active on the free agent market this season, don’t count them out just yet.