I'm so glad you ask. It is not true. It's not even close to true. I'm not sure where that number is coming from. One source that has been used often does not yet include the players with less than three years of service time. Another source that I know was not cited but was used in a recent story is talking about the entire 40-man roster and the total payroll from 2021 while only comparing that to the opening day roster for the 2022 Cardinals. That's the difference between 46+ players and 28 players. It's not apples to apples.
It's hard to compare the 2021 total payroll expense to the 2022 opening payroll expense because the season hasn't been played yet, and there will be movements that promotions and additions and the like to change the payroll. One is a finished product. The other is a beginning.
Got some time? Let's do this together.
I took the 2021 opening day roster and included all of the salaries for the players on that team that day or on the injured list, or in the case of Fowler, what he was owed by the Cardinals. I did not include signing bonuses. Arenado's cost for the Cardinals in 2021 was zero because what they owed him has been deferred and the rest was paid by Colorado. The total, including about $24m on the injured list, was $137.6m for the opening day roster. That was a downturn from previous years, as the team said they would have coming out of 2020.
The opening day roster and IL, not including bonuses, for the current team announced today is $151-$152m.
You are welcome to check my math.
As for Stroman, it became clear that the Cardinals identified several pitchers to pursue, saw Matz as both the preferred signing as a lefty and the value play to maximize with their defense, and when they got that deal done, they pivoted to shop for swingmen, which Stroman is not.