The reigning World Series Champion Cardinals have undergone many a change in the past few months.
Albert Pujols, an 11-year Cardinal veteran widely considered the best player in all of baseball, departed for a huge payday in Los Angeles. Three-time World Series winning manager Tony LaRussa finally ended his lengthy and memorable tenure with the Cards, calling it a career after becoming the third winningest manager of all time.
This team is full of champions that possess a wealth of experience and talent. They will put their skills to the test under new bench boss Mike Matheny, who has yet to call the shots for even one major league game.
After the loss of Pujols it was believed that management would go after Prince Fielder to fill the gap at first. Stealing Fielder from the rival Brewers not only would have secured that position for the better part of a decade, but it also would have dealt a blow to the reigning NL Central Champs that they, in all likelihood, could not recover from.
It was not to be.
Instead the Cards signed former Astro and Met Carlos Beltran to a two-year deal. Beltran will patrol the corners of the outfield this season and next. The team, on offense, more or less stayed the same.
Pitching, on the other hand, saw many spare parts from the past championship run leave through free agency, with starting pitcher Edwin Jackson all but assured to leave once a team offers him the bloated contract agent Scott Boras will get his client.
The predictions for the 2012 Cardinals are based on a 162 game appearance schedule, as it would be in a perfect world with each pitcher getting their usual starts on rotation without missing a beat.