The end of the season was a letdown for the Cardinals. Going into the World Series they had better pitching on paper. The reality was a bit different.
The baseball adage that good pitching beats good hitting never really got tested. The Cardinals offense wasn’t hitting well in the playoffs
The lack of offense in the playoffs and their inability to hit left-handers over the course of the whole season will lead to come changes, as will the free agency of Carlos Beltran (who the team would like to keep) and the retirement or free agency of Chris Carpenter Rafael Furcal and Edward Mujica. Between the departure of these players and the likely declining of arbitration for John Axford and a few others, the Cardinals will free up a good deal of money, which could be used on the free agent market.
What those needs will be at least partially will be determined by what Beltran does in regard to the qualifying offer that the Cardinals tendered. If he accepts, the Cards will likely focus on the left side of their infield, finding an upgrade over the offensively challenged Pete Kozma.
But free agency isn’t the only way to upgrade, and the Cardinals are loaded with talent, especially pitching talent, which they could use to acquire a shortstop by trade. Early rumors about Troy Tulowitzki however seem to be far more hot air than fact.
And it’s the young talent that may well drive a lot of the other changes for this team. If Cardinals management agrees that Kolton Wong is ready to be the everyday second baseman, then David Freese’s days as a regular at third will pretty much end, as the Cards will shift Matt Carpenter to third.
They are also counting on Oscar Tavaras being ready to patrol either in right or center field. With he and possibly Allen Craig inexpensively filling the outfield alongside Matt Holliday, the Redbirds could opt to upgrade over John Jay or at least turn him into a reserve, something which might well be inevitable in the unlikely event that Beltran opts to stay rather than seek a multi-year deal somewhere else.
Despite rumors, I don’t think that Jacoby Ellsbury would make sense for the team. While he’s a defensive upgrade, what the team needs is a power bat and one who hits lefties a lot better than Ellsbury does. That also rules out Shin Soo Choo and Curtis Granderson, though both offer more power than Ellsbury or Jay.
And while the top free agents don’t really fit the bill better than Beltran does, the trade market is open, and the Cards have at least 7 potential starters.
Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are pretty much locks for rotation spots and are probably untouchable this offseason. The same doesn’t hold for Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Jamie Garcia or Carlos Martinez.
Garcia will probably get a rotation spot only because he’ll have little trade value after a lost year. But any of the others, or a package including at least one of them, could bring a big return especially if the Cards were to couple a pitcher with a player like Matt Adams or Oscar Tavaras to land a top player. That would certainly make some sense, especially if they opted to move Adams for an upgrade at shortstop or outfield and made a play for a big bat free agent like Corey Hart.
The one thing the Cardinals can’t afford to do would be to pretty much stand pat this offseason. Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter are both poised to regress a bit, and they were two players who kept the Cards offense in the respectable zone. Couple that with the loss of Beltran and the Cards NEED to find some big offensive help this season. Otherwise in such a tough division they could find themselves on the outside looking in come next October.
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