Spring Training can't come soon enough for rabid Cardinal fans, and with the turning of the new year, it's a good time to preview the Cardinals' 25-man Opening Day roster.
As usual, the team has question marks in the middle infield and in the starting rotation.
Even with a completely clean bill of health, it's difficult to envision a full season at shortstop from Rafael Furcal. We are going to wager that GM John Mozeliak leverages some of the Cards' high-end pitching prospects for a long-term solution at short.
Mozeliak could move Trevor Rosenthal, first baseman Matt Adams—who has no path to St. Louis—and Pete Kozma (or other minor prospects) to Cleveland for Asdrubal Cabrera, whose name has come up repeatedly. This would put Jon Jay back in the leadoff spot of the lineup, where he was effective for much of 2012.
The status of Jaime Garcia is the other major mystery.
As we've noted in other articles, Mozeliak will use Garcia's work in the World Baseball Classic as an early gauge of the lefty's health.
If Garcia doesn't have it, Shelby Miller is the best option. And in all honesty, Miller probably is, even if Garcia's shoulder is sound.
Miller was one of the few Cardinal starters who was effective against the Giants in the NLCS.
If the above moves are made, the Cards' Opening Day roster will look something like this:
- CF Jon Jay
- RF Carlos Beltran
- LF Matt Holliday
- 1B Allen Craig
- C Yadier Molina
- SS Asdrubal Cabrera
- 3B David Freese
- 2B Daniel Descalso
The Cardinals are in need of another left-handed bat in the middle of the order, which switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera gives them. It also gives the team a strong one-through-seven batting order that will be tough for NL pitchers to navigate.
- SP1 Chris Carpenter
- SP2 Adam Wainwright
- SP3 Jake Westbrook
- SP4 Lance Lynn
- SP5 Jaime Garcia / Shelby Miller
If Chris Carpenter can go a full season in the rotation, the Cards will be in good shape. And if only Adam Wainwright's luck improves in 2013, he'll be good for 16-18 wins. Realistically, though, he'll be stronger and sharper this coming year, and should be an elite starter.
- Closer RHP Jason Motte
- Set-Up RHP Mitchell Boggs
- Set-Up RHP Edward Mujica
- LOOGY LHP Randy Choate
- Middle RHP Joe Kelly
- Middle LHP Marc Rzepczynski
- Long-man RHP Fernando Salas
For the first time in three seasons, the Cards' bullpen will be ready from Day 1. Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs each had their best seasons yet in 2012. Motte tied for the league lead in saves with 42. Randy Choate will be their most effective "Loogy" (Lefty one-out guy) since Trever Miller was on his game.
- C Tony Cruz
- IF Rafael Furcal
- IF/OF Ty Wigginton
- IF/OF Matt Carpenter
- OF Shane Robinson
Ty Wigginton adds a veteran right-handed bat the team has craved, but it's questionable how effective he will be at his advancing age. Matt Carpenter has been working on his defense at second in the offseason, and may push Daniel Descalso to the bench. But the bench is probably the best place for Descalso and Rafael Furcal.
With the team winning just one division title in the last six years, the Cards are overdue to have a wire-to-wire division-leading season.
Manager Mike Matheny has his first playoff-quality season under his belt and should confidently lead St. Louis past the tough Reds in 2013.