As I begin another year of this series examining the Cubs' opponents for 2016, let me first clarify that these articles are from my own research and my own thoughts on each team. I welcome fans from each of the teams to drop in and give us more information, or have civil discussion, but these are intended to view the opposition from a Cub fan's point of view.
This series will begin with the Cubs' N.L. Central rivals, then the rest of the National League, and conclude with the Cubs' interleague opponents for 2016.
So. The Cardinals. Not only did the Cubs take the Cardinals out of the playoffs in 2015 with a convincing division series win, but then signed away two of their best players via free agency.
Cardinals fans didn't take this well, as you might remember. Many of them took to Twitter to call Jason Heyward a "trader," which, unless he's suddenly become a general manager, he isn't. (Scroll on through that link for some amusement.)
Anyway, without Heyward and John Lackey, the Cardinals are still a formidable team. They signed Mike Leake to take Lackey's spot in the rotation, and Adam Wainwright should be back at full strength. Lance Lynn, who we last saw when the Cubs were pounding baseballs out of Busch Stadium off him, has had Tommy John surgery and is out for the year.
The Cardinals will replace Heyward in the outfield with some combination of Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham. Those are all good players, and Grichuk and Piscotty could in particular give the Cardinals a boost offensively, if they stay healthy (Grichuk wasn't, last year). Matt Holliday (the Padres are still waiting for him to touch the plate, incidentally) remains the left fielder, and one of the more disliked Cardinals.
The St. Louis bullpen is still anchored by Trevor Rosenthal, and they have added Korean star Seung Hwan Oh. Oh has 357 career saves in 11 years in Korean and Japanese leagues; how that translates to MLB remains to be seen.
Cubs nemesis Yadier Molina won't start catching until early March and could miss part of the year. St. Louis signed former Reds catcher Brayan Pena to back him up. Pena's a better hitter than Molina's former backup, Tony Cruz. Molina was injured part of last year, too, and he didn't hit well when he was playing. He's now caught over 1,400 games in 12 seasons and his best days might be behind him.
Cubs/Cardinals games are always intense. I think the rivalry is better when both teams are good. Perhaps there's another postseason matchup in store. In the meantime, the teams will play 19 regular-season games, beginning April 18 with a three-game series in St. Louis. The first Wrigley meeting of the clubs isn't till June 20, another three-game set. By that time the Cubs will have played another series in St. Louis in late May.