The St. Louis Cardinals will certainly look to upgrade their roster this off season in a variety of ways. Aside from their core players, which is one of the best in baseball, the 2011 Cardinals roster will most likely feature plenty of fresh faces as the Cards look to shuffle their roster to compete for the NL Central title in 2011. Free agency is officially upon us, so let’s take a look at the status of where the roster currently is… and where it might be heading.
These are the previously noted “core players” I mentioned above. No way you can expect anything different here in 2011. Notice I didn’t put CF Colby Rasmus on this list. You obviously can’t ignore the falling out he had with manager Tony LaRussa this past season. Rumors have been swirling around a Colby Rasmus for Carlos Quentin deal, that has the Card’s front office saying “gotta do better than that.” Rasmus’ St. Louis home is on the market, but Colby’s father, Tony Rasmus, recently squashed the rumors as to why. Unless the Cardinals get blown away with an offer, Rasmus will be back in center field starting for the Cardinals. Where he belongs.
One of the top priorities for St. Louis this off season is acquiring a starting pitcher to back Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. LHP Jamie Garcia will obviously be a welcome addition back to the rotation after an impressive rookie campaign, but after those three it’s anybody’s guess.
St. Louis was hoping to sign Jake Westbrook to a multiyear deal before he hit the free agent pool, but that obviously didn’t happen. Still, look for St. Louis to try and get a deal done with Westbrook first and foremost. Penny’s stint with the Redbirds was short lived. After missing the last four months of the season with shoulder and upper back issues, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see him again.
Honestly, I wouldn’t count on seeing any of the other free agents with St. Louis next season. LaRue already told the Cardinals he plans to retire after a kick to the head from Johnny Cueto in August led to a season ending concussion (career ending actually). The light-hitting Feliz isn’t what the Cardinals are looking for at third from an offensive production standpoint, and they’ll probably look to replace Reyes with a healthier lefty reliever in the pen. Miles and Suppan have most likely overstayed their welcome, but they, along with Winn and MacDougal could potentially hold some interest with the club later this offseason.
It should be noted the Cardinals will get no draft-pick compensation for their free-agents if they sign elsewhere. None of them are Type A or Type B players. Felipe Lopez (Type B) was released in September. Also, Joe Mather was claimed off waivers by the Atlanta Braves.
On the block
One of the Cardinals’ strengths for trade bait is right-handed relief.
2B Skip Schumaker or even SS Brendan Ryan could be part of a deal as the Cards look to add some pop in their middle infield. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if St. Louis decided to try this tandem another year.
Both SS Brendan Ryan and RHP Kyle McClellan are arbitration eligible, but neither should command too much money for St. Louis to handle. Even though Ryan’s a gold-glove candidate and McClellan’s very reliable, they’re both young and will be relatively inexpensive.
Speaking of which, 3B David Freese will be ready for spring training after surgery on both his ankles in August (right) and September (left). St. Louis needs to add a power bat to their line up and if they don’t upgrade up the middle, third base would be a likely position to fill that hole. Will a healthy David Freese be productive enough offensively for the Cards to feel confident in their line up? What about outfielders Allen Craig or Jon Jay? Can they play at a high level consistently for St. Louis not to go out and get a big free agent bat?
Ultimately, we’ll see if the Cardinals look to rely on these inexpensive young guns again this season as Pujols’ enormous contract looms, or if they’ll spend the money in free agency or trade some of those familiar faces? Take a look at the free agents the Cardinals could possibly throw money at, and tell us what you think? Play GM and please leave your comments below.