Usually when a team represents its league in the World Series, it’s pretty much the same team that takes the field the following season.
Why tweak a team that has had so much success?
Well, baseball is a business, and already the St. Louis Cardinals -- the 2013 NL World Series representatives -- are looking like a new team.
Chris Carpenter, who has been one of the faces of the franchise for pretty much the last decade, finally hung up his spikes after his injuries became too much to bear.
Slugging outfielder Carlos Beltran is a free agent, and it’s not looking like the Cardinals will make a play for his return.
The team traded 2011 World Series MVP David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for center fielder Peter Bourjos. The Cards also were not afraid to open their wallets to bring in shortstop Jhonny Peralta, fresh off his 50-game suspension for PED usage.
Here are the constants for this team offensively: Yadier Molina at catcher and Matt Holliday in left field. Every other position will have some sort of change.
Allen Craig will likely see the bulk of his time in right field to replace Beltran, meaning Matt Adams takes over at first base. Matt Carpenter should shift from second base to third base to fill the hole vacated by Freese.
Peralta will be at shortstop, and Kolten Wong -- who is most known for getting picked off at first base to end Game 4 of the World Series -- becomes a starting option at second base, with Daniel Descalso as another possibility. Bourjos looks like the frontrunner to be team’s center fielder, but Jon Jay could also see time there.
The team also has prized outfield prospect Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings, so that could throw everything off, with Craig then shifting back to first base.
Roster flexibility is essential for an NL team, but that’s a lot of shaking up for a team that just went to the World Series.
As far as the pitching staff, a full season of Michael Wacha could almost be considered a new face, simply based on how dominant he was in the postseason. Even having Carlos Martinez for a full year in the bullpen will do wonders.
Joe Kelly might shift back to a bullpen role, assuming Jaime Garcia’s returning from shoulder surgery is successful. Garcia would join Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn in the Cardinals’ rotation.
Big-name free-agent signings usually tend to work out in St. Louis (Holliday, Beltran), so fans can be optimistic about Peralta. The team may make one or two minor tweaks here or there during the remainder of the offseason, but the core of the team is assembled.
The thing about the Cardinals that always amazes is that virtually no matter who is on the field, the team will be relevant all season and somehow make the playoffs.
The NL Central should again be a competitive division, but no one would be surprised if the Cards won another division crown in 2014.
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