With the baseball Winter Meetings just heating up, the St. Louis Cardinals have some options available through the free agent market.
While the Cardinals are not in need of anyone to simply throw money at to fill a position, they have the luxury of patience in 2012, which I'm sure they welcome after the chaotic foot race 2011 turned out to be.
The Cardinals are in need of an additional left-handed reliever to bolster their bullpen. Marc Rzepczynksi does not handle it well when he is the bullpen's only lefty, so the Cardinals will want to strengthen that side of the plate.
They are also in need of a veteran option at shortstop to backup Rafael Furcal. Reports came back positive about Furcal's elbow in November, but I would be leery of going into 2013 without a valid insurance policy.
Following are three options the Cardinals could go after.
Howell, who spent last year with the Tampa Bay Rays, could be a good option for the Cardinals. The price tag is fairly reasonable (around $1.3 million), and his numbers have been good.
While his strikeout totals aren't the highest (42), he limited his walks well (22) and compiled a nice 3.04 ERA.
In 2012, he surrendered 17 ER in 50.1 innings pitched.
Another left-handed reliever on the market, Sean Burnett, could be a fit for the Cardinals if the deal is right.
Burnett's agent shot down reports Sunday that he was seeking a four-year deal. The Cardinals might be willing to go for a two-year deal.
Burnett had an impressive season in 2012 and would be a huge help to the Cardinals.
Last year he put together a 2.38 ERA, giving up only 15 ER in 56.2 IP. He also struck out 57 opposing batters during that period.
At the right price, he could be a nice fit in St. Louis.
This 29-year-old shortstop has been on the Cardinals' radar for years.
He is the brother of former Cardinal J.D. Drew, and the team has known of his ability for a long time.
Drew is a solid defensive shortstop, but his waning offense has been a cause for concern when combined with his ankle problems.
The Cardinals wouldn't be willing to go long-term on him, but if he was interested in a one-year deal to prove himself, he could be a nice fit.
While 2011 was the worst year of his career, if he's healthy he still has the ability to be an asset to someone.
For the time being, he would make a nice backup to Furcal for the Cardinals.