St. Louis’ World Series loss to Boston was disheartening and frustrating.
Despite falling short of their 12th title in franchise history, the Cardinals' historic accomplishments shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The Cardinals' window for success isn't closing anytime soon. The future remains bright, but the offseason marks an important period for upgrades and constant evaluation.
That said, cost-effective upgrades are going to play a role this winter.
The middle infield will undergo a makeover. In 2013, Cardinals shortstops finished 29th in batting average (.222). An addition to the outfield could become mandatory (pending the status of free agent Carlos Beltran), and a power bat off the bench would be beneficial to a club that lacked pop during late-game situations in 2013 (see: 2013 postseason).
On Monday, Boston gave shortstop Stephen Drew a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, and it's becoming more likely Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak will pursue other alternatives.
The most realistic option would be acquiring a shortstop via trade. The question is, at what price?
The Cardinals are loaded with young pitching, which is the most sought-after commodity in the game. Also, according to Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals will benefit from $25 million in national-TV dollars in 2014.
This means Mozeliak won’t be gun shy to land a big-name player if the right opportunity presents itself.
A few names come to mind in terms of the shortstop position.
According to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals used the better part of the last year scouting the market for suitable candidates. The likes of Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera, Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki and Baltimore’s J.J. Hardy stood out.
Cabrera is a foreseeable option. The 27-year-old hit .242 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI last season. However, Cabrera is signed through 2014, where he will earn $10 million, according to baseballreference.com.
Though, money probably won't be an issue for the Cardinals. The Cardinals will "shed more than $40 million from the payroll," according to Goold. Tulowitzki, whom the Cardinals inquired about in past years, could come at a heftier price, which would include some of the Cardinals' top prospects.
I’m not sold on Mozeliak selling out for Tulowitzki, whose career has been marred by injuries. Not to mention his towering contract that will pay him $14 million next season, $20 million for each of the following five seasons and then $14 million in 2020.
If Mozeliak lands a shortstop, Matt Carpenter will likely shift to third base, and David Freese, who underperformed in 2013, could serve as a nice addition off the bench. The same holds true if the Cardinals re-sign Beltran. Matt Adams will see more time at first base, meaning Allen Craig will shift to the outfield with Matt Holliday, Oscar Taveras, Beltran and possibly Jon Jay.
As far as the outfield is concerned, the Cardinals officially handed Beltran a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer on Monday, which guarantees them a draft pick in return if he signs with another club. Beltran will almost certainly decline the offer and elect free agency. The Cardinals could ink him to a short-term deal, but a multi-year agreement doesn't appear likely for the aging switch-hitter.
If the latter holds true, the Cardinals could (and should) promote within. The young Oscar Taveras is waiting in the shadows to begin his big league career. By the same token, another outfielder would add depth, which never hurts.
As Mozeliak continues to evaluate the roster, he will surely sign a significant upgrade or two for next season. If not, this offseason will be a complete bust.