Now that the Cardinals have had about a week to recover from their Game 6 World Series loss, they have firmly turned their attention to the 2014 squad.
So far we know that Trevor Rosenthal will be the closer to start next season and Carlos Martinez will get a shot as a starter.
So until Beltran finishes feeling out the free-agency market, the Cardinals are a little up in the air as to what they will do with the outfield.
Assuming Beltran walks, here is the blueprint for what the Cardinals will need to do for a successful offseason.
Acquire an Everyday Shortstop
The shortstop position was not a very productive one for the 2013 Cardinals. Pete Kozma got the lion's share of the duties with Daniel Descalso being sprinkled in occasionally. Both are severe liabilities at the plate and are slightly above average in the field.
There are those who suggest Troy Tulowitzki may be a fit for the Cardinals. I don't see it, especially since Tulo is due a guaranteed $130 million through 2020 with a team option for 2021 at $15 million. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak isn't one to spend that kind of money on a guy who can't stay healthy, so I'd be very surprised to see Tulo in a Cardinals uniform.
What makes sense is picking up someone like Jed Lowrie from the Athletics, who is due a substantial raise because he is arbitration eligible and had a great season in 2013. He is a solid defender and has shown he can hit when he is healthy. The Cardinals could probably get him for a few pitching prospects, which the Cardinals are rich in at the moment.
Plan on Oscar Taveras to Start in Center Field
With the good chance that Carlos Beltran leaves via free agency, the Cardinals have the pieces to replace him fairly quickly. No one wants to see Carlos go, but it seems close to inevitable at this point. So, I see Allen Craig moving to right field, Matt Adams to first base and Oscar Taveras to center field. Taveras hit over .300 in his limited time at AAA Memphis last season and is knocking on the door for big league playing time.
Jon Jay just isn't a long-term solution in my opinion. He was serviceable at best the last two seasons. He has no power and doesn't have much speed on the bases. Taveras has both of those qualities and hopefully will translate onto the big league scene. Jay is a decent defender, but the Cardinals need more punch from the center field position.
Keep David Freese
I know what you're thinking, why keep David Freese? Are you kidding me? The guy killed the Cardinals in the postseason by stranding approximately 832 runners.
Granted Freese couldn't hit the ball if he was swinging a log this postseason, but he does provide some value. Everyone knows All-Star Matt Carpenter can play third base and that Kolten Wong appears to be the heir-apparent to the second base spot. But, by keeping Freese around, it provides some punch off the bench. Plus, in the off-chance Wong is a flop at second, Carpenter can move back to second and Freese take back over at third.
If Shelby Miller is Traded, Get a Core-Type Player in Return
There have been rumors that Shelby Miller may be traded, especially given the fact he only pitched one inning this postseason.
Miller had a fabulous rookie year, going 15-9 and posting an excellent 3.06 ERA in 31 starts. So why would the Cardinals even consider trading their 2009 first-round pick? Well there are two possible answers to that question. First, Michael Wacha may have stolen his spot with his lights-out late-season pitching. Second, Miller's value is high as a proven commodity.
So if Miller does get traded, the Cardinals need a core-type player in return. Frankly, that means getting an above-average everyday shortstop or third baseman. With Miller's success in 2013, his young age and low salary, he should command some serious trade offers.
All in all, the Cardinals are set up very well to defend their NL Central crown in 2014 and play deep into October. A few moves by the team and it would not be out of the question to expect the Cardinals to make a return to the Fall Classic.
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