After a highly successful season with a heart-breaking end, the St. Louis Cardinals are hungry for another trip to the postseason and another shot at championship No. 12.
This past year saw the fall of Rafael Furcal and Lance Berkman due to unfortunate injury and consequently the emergence of some key, homegrown talent in players such as Matt Carpenter and Pete Kozma. It was also a roller-coaster ride for the bullpen.
Like in any season, there were highs and there were lows.
With the uncertain futures of many of 2012's starters, we can be sure there will be some subtle changes in 2013. Will the Redbirds shop for infield help or continue to develop young players in the upcoming class? Will they finally nab a second lefty for the bullpen? And what will their rotation look like?
While it's possible there won't be too many new guys wearing the birds on the bat, you never know what might happen in an already eventful offseason that featured a blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays.
So far this offseason, the Redbirds have released Kyle McClellan and signed catcher Rob Johnson to a minor league deal. But let's look at some exciting potential moves for the Cardinals:
The Shortstops: Asdrubal Cabrera and Elvis Andrus
The Indians are entertaining offers for Cabrera, and Furcal (as previously mentioned) is sitting and waiting to see what the dreaded injury fairy may have in store for him. So it only makes sense that Joe Strauss reports that the “Cardinals have ‘real’ interest in pursuing” the All-Star.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit .270 with 16 homers and 68 RBI in 2012, and he would no doubt provide some power in the middle infield after one of Furcal’s most productive years in recent memory (before damaging his elbow).
It’s possible that Furcal won’t return until well into the 2013 season, and Pete Kozma, who filled in for Furcal in the postseason, is seen as more of a utility/bench player and not a long-term solution.
But the GM has many—ahem—Cards he can play in the form of fresh young talent.
John Mozeliak would have to dish up plenty of prospects or pair a couple of them with a key youngster such as a Lance Lynn for a deal to be reached. Cabrera has two years left on his contract with Cleveland and would definitely not be considered a rental—this would be a commitment.
Rumors of this trade do seem to have decreased from the buzz created last week, but many say that the Cardinals’ “real interest” hasn’t.
And then there’s Elvis Andrus.
The Rangers have been reluctant to claim that they’re listening to interest in their shortstop, but others (like ESPN's Richard Durrett) think it’s possible they could bring up prospect Jurickson Profar and make Andrus trade bait.
Andrus would also contribute a great bat to the St. Louis lineup, having hit .275 with 14 homers and 62 RBI in 2012. Again, this would be a long-term signing for Mozeliak and would require parting with some real talent.
This speculation is less credible than the last, as there is no official word on whether or not the Cardinals are actually interested. I’d be willing to bet, however, that in a choice between the two, Mozeliak has chosen to court Cabrera.
The Relievers: Randy Choate, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Others
It was no secret that lefties were in short supply for the Redbirds in 2012. Marc Rzepczynski got the brunt of the work, and he wasn’t exactly the most dependable arm with a 4.24 ERA.
This left fans wondering if a southpaw would be the first order of business in the offseason.
Thus far, it doesn’t seem like it is.
The biggest peep we’ve heard out of the front office all November has been in regards to Cabrera. But Mozeliak has indeed told the media he’s looking, and we have plenty of time left until spring training. Naturally, everyone has been speculating about who might be new in the bullpen come February.
A great deal of people say it could be Randy Choate, who started 2012 with the Marlins, finished with the Dodgers and now finds himself a free agent. With the former team, he had a 2.49 ERA with a 0.987 WHIP.
Other thoughts have been that Sean Burnett might be an option after undergoing elbow surgery. And then there’s Mike Gonzalez. Both are free agents from the Nationals.
One thing is for sure: With Jeremy Affeldt re-signing with the Giants, lefty relievers are sure to go quickly.
The Starters: Ryan Dempster, Jeremy Guthrie, Dan Haren and Others
Kyle Lohse had a pretty amazing 2012 season—amazing enough to earn seventh place in NL Cy Young voting. And it seems as if he knows it.
The free agent went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 2012 and has officially declined the Cardinals' qualifying offer of $13.3 million. He is pretty much set to leave the Busch Stadium clubhouse.
But with his departure, the starting rotation is also in question.
Fans witnessed the big league debut of top prospect Shelby Miller near the end of last season, so there is a chance he may be the answer if he doesn’t find himself involved in a trade for one of the previously mentioned shortstops. With Carpenter and Wainwright healthy, it’s looking like an alternative would be picking up a middle-of-the-road starter.
Again, the front office has been quiet on the issue so far with no action just yet. Of course, others have been wondering if free agents like Ryan Dempster and Jeremy Guthrie could be affordable options.
And it’s possible that St. Louis could witness some triumphant returns. Both Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren are available, but the Cardinals might lean toward whatever becomes the cheaper option.
Also, Strauss claims that Rick Ankiel may be looking to get back into pitching:
“Yes, I think the Cardinals would be among those open to providing such an opportunity,” he writes.
Time to Sit and Wait
So it turns out it might be a quiet winter for the Redbirds.
But the team they have is pretty ready to contend again in 2013. Keep checking in, because the MLB offseason is never boring!