After failing to successfully defend their World Series championship, changes are coming to St. Louis, though chances are that the Cardinals won't be linked to the biggest names available this winter via free agency and trades.
With much of their core under contract for at least another season, this winter instead will be more about tweaking things than anything else.
How is a fan supposed to keep up with it all?
That's where B/R comes in—we'll be bringing you the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Cardinals along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. The best part—everything will be right here, so there's no risk of missing a juicy rumor that just broke.
*This will be updated on a regular basis—often multiple times per day—so while the post date will always show as November 5, simply click to the next slide to see the latest rumors and rumblings about the Cardinals as they put together their roster for the 2013 season..*
The man who calls the shots in St. Louis, GM John Mozeliak
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow this, but consider this your handy "quick-reference" guide for all of the major comings and goings with the Cardinals this winter.
November 13: Released RHP Kyle McClellan
November 13: Signed C Rob Johnson to a minor-league deal
November 17: Verbal agreement with OF Justin Christian on a minor-league deal
December 5: Signed LHP Randy Choate to a three-year, $7.5 million deal
December 12: Traded Skip Schumacher to Los Angeles Dodgers for SS Jake Lemmerman
UPDATE: Thursday, December 13 at 7:45 a.m. ET
Free agent outfielder Scott Hairston tells ESPN New York's Adam Rubin that he is getting closer to making a decision on where he'll be playing in 2013:
Things are starting to pick up now that the market is settling in. Still unsure where I'll sign, though. There are a lot of trades happening around the league, so it's possible that interest may rise in the next few days. My agent has been in contact with (Mets' GM) Sandy [Alderson], so he is aware I want a multiyear deal.
Hairston, 32, is coming off of a career year for the New York Mets in 2012, one that saw him post a .263/.299/.504 batting line while setting career highs in games played (134), runs scored (52) and home runs (20).
With the Cardinals, Hairston would replace either Adron Chambers or Shane Robinson as the team's primary fourth outfielder.
UPDATE: Wednesday, December 12
Long-time Cardinals' utility player Skip Schumaker has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for minor league SS Jake Lemmerman, as reported by ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon.
So who in the world is Jake Lemmerman?
He's a 23-year-old shortstop who, over the past two years, has posted a .233/.342/.380 batting line in 136 games at Double-A.
Lemmerman isn't quite a prospect, but his ability to get on base and flashes of power (82 doubles, 29 home runs in 306 career minor league games) shows promise.
He figures to start the season in Double-A Springfield.
---End of Update--
With Daniel Descalso the incumbent starter at second base, holding the fort until prospect Kolten Wong is ready to take over, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that 32-year-old Skip Schumaker could be traded sooner rather than later.
Schumaker, who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Cardinals, is a versatile player who can play second base and all three outfield positions.
Set to earn only $1.5 million in 2013, he's a rather inexpensive option for a team looking to add a veteran bat to their bench.
He posted a batting line of .276/.339/.368 with one home run and 28 RBI in just over 300 plate appearances in 2012.
St. Louis picked up the second left-handed reliever they sought in Randy Choate, who agreed to a three-year, $7.5 million deal to join the Cardinals' bullpen, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman (via Twitter):
He finished the season in a four-way tie for the most pitching appearances in baseball with 80, the second time in the past three years that Choate appeared in at least 80 games (he led the American League with 85 relief appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010).
As it stands right now, Marc Rzepczynski is the only left-handed reliever in the Cardinals bullpen heading into 2013, a situation that GM John Mozeliak isn't particularly comfortable with, as he told Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch:
Rzep’s peripherals were still pretty good, but there is some external variables that affect him that we need to make sure as an organization we get right. I think usage is critical. I think having another lefty made him feel better. When he was a one-man band out there he didn’t pitch as well. That’s why we need to find someone.
Jeremy Affeldt was the premier left-handed reliever on the market, but he's back with the San Francisco Giants after signing a three-year, $18 million deal earlier this month.
With Affeldt off the market, the pickings in free agency are rather slim.
The two best southpaws available are 30-year-old Sean Burnett (1-2, 2.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, 9.1 K/9 in 70 games for Washington in 2012) and 29-year-old J.P. Howell (1-0, 3.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, 7.5 K/9 in 55 games for Tampa Bay).
I think we knew going in that the lefty relief market wasn't a great place to be shopping, just in the sense that there's not a lot out there. As we look at a lot of our options, it may come from trade.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as teams typically aren't in a rush to deal quality left-handed relievers unless they are getting something substantial in return.
B.J. Rains of FOXSports Midwest reports that the Cardinals have reached a verbal agreement with outfielder Justin Christian on a minor league deal:
Source: Cardinals have reached verbal agreement with outfielder Justin Christian on a minor league deal with invite to Spring Training.— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) November 17, 2012
The 32-year-old outfielder hit .125/.197/.143 with two RBI, two stolen bases and six runs scored in 61 plate appearances with the San Francisco Giants in 2012.
Christian, who has spent parts of three seasons with the New York Yankees and the Giants, has a career batting line of .203/.255/.266 with no home runs, 12 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 18 runs scored in 155 plate appearances.
Nothing to get excited about here, as Christian figures to be an extra body in spring training and provide depth at the minor league level in 2013.
From the Cardinals themselves:
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) November 13, 2012
Johnson, 30, is a light-hitting defensive-minded catcher who spent the 2012 season bouncing between the majors and minors for the New York Mets, hitting .250 with four RBI in 17 games.
For his career, spent primarily with the Seattle Mariners, Johnson has a career .201/.277/.297 batting line with 8 HR and 62 RBI.
He's an extra body for spring training, nothing more.
As first reported by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals have released reliever Kyle McClellan:
#cardinals have released Kyle McClellan.
— Derrick Goold (@dgoold) November 13, 2012
McClellan, 28, spent his entire five-year major league career with the Cardinals, winning 12 games for the 2011 World Championship team.
In 216 career games with St. Louis—including 17 starts in 2011—McClellan posted a 19-23 record with a 3.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and six saves, striking out 257 batters in 378 innings of work.
He struggled in 2012, allowing 16 hits and 11 earned runs in 18.2 innings of work for the Cards, and he battled shoulder and elbow problems before undergoing season-ending surgery in July. (h/t NBC Sports)
With a group of power-throwing youngsters making their way through the system and no guarantees about how he'll bounce back from surgery, McClellan simply didn't have a spot on the team in 2013.
UPDATE: November 9, 2012
With the Cleveland Indians listening to trade offers for 27-year-old shorstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch believes that the Cardinals should get in on the action and make a move to bring him on board.
Cabrera made his second consecutive All-Star appearance in 2012, finishing the year with a .270/.338/.423 batting line to go along with 16 home runs, 68 RBI, 70 runs scored while going 9-for-13 on stolen base attempts.
He is under team control through the 2014 season, with salaries of $6.5 million in 2013, $10 million in 2014, so he wouldn't be breaking the bank for the Cardinals to add him to their payroll.
Gordon notes that position players like Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter, along with pitchers Seth Blair, Jorge Rondon and Eduardo Sanchez could all be of interest to Cleveland, who doesn't necessarily need to receive a shortstop in exchange for Cabrera and has multiple needs around the diamond.
For a package of one or two of the players Gordon named, Cabrera makes an awful lot of sense for the Cards, who simply cannot rely on Rafael Furcal and would be better off keeping Pete Kozma on the bench as utility infielder.
If Cleveland starts insisting that Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller or Joe Kelly be included in any deal for Cabrera, I'd pass.
He's a good player, but he's not worth giving up one of those talented young arms for.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinals' starter Adam Wainwright doesn't want to call anywhere other than Busch Stadium home, and the 31-year-old says that his representatives have touched base with the team about making that a reality:
In brief talks with (Cardinals executives) they feel real good about me coming back for a long time, and I want to make that happen. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t make that happen. ... It’s not like I have one foot out the door (to free agency). If I’m being honest, they have to show they respect what I’ve done and what I will do. And they have. They have. So I don’t think it will be a problem.
In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, the righty posted a 14-13 record, 3.94 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 198 regular season innings.
In three postseason starts, he pitched to a 4.80 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but those numbers are inflated by his awful performance in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, when he allowed six earned runs and seven hits over only 2.1 innings of work.
Goold points to the recent extension signed by Matt Cain (six years, $127.5 million) as well as what free agent pitcher Zack Greinke ultimately signs for as being in the neighborhood of what Wainwright will be looking for.
Whether he'll get a five-or-six-year deal for over $100 million remains to be seen, and Wainwright himself understands that baseball, first and foremost, is a business.
From the business side, you do look to see what other guys sign for. My time in St. Louis has been real special. ... But we have talent coming up and it will be a business decision. It’s fine (to reach 2013 without an extension). As I pitch in 2013 if there’s still a question about what I can do, then those questions will all fade by the wayside. My confidence about 2013 is at an all-time high regardless of what happens.
The Cardinals have talent coming up, but it's unproven. At 31, Wainwright isn't a spring chicken, but he's far from "old" and over the hill. It may not happen until sometime next year, but it would be surprising to see Wainwright pitching for anyone other than the Cardinals in 2014.
Could Marco Scutaro wind up in St. Louis?
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines that Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak could look to overpay a veteran on a one-year contract to shore up second base and shortstop, spots currently occupied by Daniel Descalso and Rafael Furcal or Pete Kozma.
Stephen Drew, Alex Gonzalez, Jeff Keppinger and Marco Scutaro are the four middle infielders Strauss names, and of the bunch it stands to reason that both Drew and Scutaro are going to command multi-year deals.
Forced to choose between Gonzalez and Keppinger, I'm taking Keppinger. Gonzalez, 35, might have more pop in his bat, but he missed most of last season with torn knee ligaments and doesn't bring any more stability to the infield than the options the Cardinals already have in house. (h/t ESPN)
Under Contract Through 2013
OF Carlos Beltran
SP Chris Carpenter
SP Adam Wainwright
SP Jake Westbrook
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Skip Schumaker
SP Jaime Garcia: Signed through 2016
OF Matt Holliday: Signed through 2016
C Yadier Molina: Signed through 2017
RP Mitchell Boggs
3B David Freese
RP Kyle McClellan (released)
RP Jason Motte
RP Edward Mujica
RP Mark Rzepczynski
1B Lance Berkman
RP Brian Fuentes
SP Kyle Lohse