Free agency is two months old this offseason and a few surprise free agents are still on the market. Namely, Prince Fielder and Edwin Jackson, both of whom were the subject of much speculation about signing quickly, and for large sums of money.
The conventional wisdom proved to be wrong. Fielder remains on the market with no real fit, and Edwin Jackson, who many thought would sign for near-ace money, is also still available. Jackson filled the #2 starter's spot for the Cardinals in 2011 once he came over from the White Sox via the Blue Jays—though he was Jays property on paper only.
Behind Chris Carpenter, Jackson, Jaime Garcia, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and young heroes Allen Craig and David Freese, the Cardinals shocked the baseball world in 2011. Their climb from a double-digit deficit in the standings to making the playoffs on the final day of the season and then winning the World Series was one for the ages.
After the parade was over, a few pieces started to fall off from the magic of 2011. Tony LaRussa retired, Pujols left for massive money over 20 years in Los Angeles, Dave McKay left for the rival Cubs and Dave Duncan is currently taking an indefinite leave of absence.
GM John Mozeliak has moved to mitigate these losses. The club exercised Lance Berkman's 2012 option, and he will move to first base for 2012. The original plan was for Allen Craig to take over in right field, but when he got injured, the Cards turned to Carlos Beltran to take over in right. Former Cards catcher Mike Matheny was brought in to guide the defending champs in 2012 as well.
However, it seems like one move is still missing.
While Beltran and Berkman are quality players, they're still just veteran stopgap options, keeping the Cardinals competitive while Allen Craig heals up and Matt Adams, arguably the most underrated first base prospect in baseball, continues to develop. Adams hit 54 home runs over the last two seasons in the minors, so he's seen as a serious threat once he's ready for the majors.
The simple reality is that Chris Carpenter can't last forever, and Shelby Miller is still a few years away from being a major league ace. Carpenter will turn 37 in April, and has logged 2,897.2 professional innings on the mound. Barring injury, it's a safe bet that Carps will have logged his 3,000th inning by the 2012 All Star Game.
That said, the Cardinals will need someone between Wainwright and Garcia in the event that old man time finally catches up with Carpenter. While his postseason heroics were something to marvel at in 2011, he could very well be due for a major injury. In case that happens, the Cardinals need more of an insurance plan than Kyle Loshe or Shelby Miller, who hasn't pitched above the AA level yet.
That insurance plan can and should be Edwin Jackson. Jackson has had no serious signing rumors yet, despite being an inning eater with the ability to dominate from time to time. Jackson worked well with the Cardinals in 2011 and could continue to do so in 2012.
If either Carpenter or Wainwright is be injured, Jackson could easily take the reins of the #2 starter's slot. This would be a better option than trying to force Jaime Garcia into that slot.
Furthermore, this would allow Shelby Miller to develop in the minors and ease into the major leagues, rather than being thrust into a role he's not ready for.
Mozeliak has said the funds that were intended for Pujols will be redistributed to other areas of need. Berkman was surely part of that, as will be re-signing franchise catcher Yadier Molina. Though Jackson's asking price is currently sky high, if it comes down to a more reasonable level, why not re-sign Jackson?