The St. Louis Cardinals are in a prime position this offseason, at least when it comes to filling the fifth spot in their starting rotation. With Kyle Lohse unlikely to return, the team has options. They've spent money wisely for the most part over the last few years and this year should be no exception.
They can stay in house with their current talent, namely Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller, each viable options and affordable choices. However, should the Cardinals want to look outside of the organization, they have a few possibilities:
The Cardinals could use another lefty in the rotation. Enter Francisco Liriano. He had a terrible season last year, no doubt. But St. Louis seems to be the resurrection spot for many pitchers, i.e. Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, Woody Williams, the list goes on and on. Granted, those pitchers had Dave Duncan to work with, but Derek Lilliquist did a great job with the staff in 2012.
Liriano has good stuff and with proper coaching, could very well turn back into the pitcher who was dominant in 2006 and 2010. It's not known what kind of contract he will command in free agency, but he earned $5 million last season and will probably ask for the same amount in his next deal, which may include a few incentives.
He could be a very solid fit in the Cardinals rotation for 2013 and beyond.
Joe Saunders may have pitched himself into a nice mulit-year deal with his postseason performance. He threw 11.1 innings and posted a 1.59 ERA in his two postseason starts. He is 31 and getting a four or five-year deal may be a stretch, but he could be a good three-year fit with the Cardinals.
He made $6 million last season and could be a line for a contract in the $7-8 million a year range. It may be a going on a limb to sign the guy to a three-year, $21-24 million contract, but he has proved he can pitch in the big moment. With the Cardinals' consistent postseason appearances, Saunders could provide a legitimate weapon from the left side to go along with Jaime Garcia.
With Kyle Lohse making $11 million last season and expecting more on his next deal, Saunders may be worth a look.
Brandon McCarthy is probably a long shot for the Cardinals to sign, but I like the guy. He knows how to pitch and has developed his game a lot in the last four years. He is probably most remembered for taking a line drive to the head off the bat of Erick Aybar back in September.
Losing him for the postseason cost the A's a serious shot at the American League pennant. He was 8-6 with a 3.24 ERA before being shut down. Also, McCarthy made just over $4 million in 2012. The Cardinals' advantage here is they can certainly match or beat whatever the Athletics can put on the table.
McCarthy adds a really solid arm to the Cardinals' rotation and would help them make another deep postseason run in 2013.
Lance Lynn is probably the favorite in this race to fill the last spot in the Cardinals' rotation, and frankly, he should be. He won 18 games in an All-Star campaign last season and now has a year of starting experience under his belt.
Plus, the guy will make somewhere around $500,000 this upcoming season and is not arbitration eligible until 2015 and free-agent eligible until 2018. So based on those options alone, the Cardinals will take a good hard look at Lynn.
If the Cards decide Lynn is the guy, that opens up options for an upgrade at second base and perhaps shortstop.
Lynn can be summed up in three words: young, cheap and durable.
Shelby Miller has been projected to break through somewhere on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, whether as a starter or as a reliever. Hopefully for Miller, he showed enough during his September call-up and postseason performance to garner a serious look for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Miller has an explosive fastball and a young lively arm. He's also cheap. Those are magic words to a GM's ears. John Mozeliak has done a fantastic job as GM since taking over for Walt Jockety a few years back. He will check in house first and Miller will most likely get a serious look in the spring.