Like all teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and their general manager, John Mozeliak, have a "to-do" list in the 2013-2014 offseason. Unlike all teams, they were two wins away from their 12th World Series title this past October, and they're hoping that they can take those final steps next year.
Here's where they're at so far:
Pitching: With Adam Wainwright leading the rotation, Jaime Garcia returning, and the barrage of young arms who took MLB by storm last year, the Cardinals have more than enough talent in this department. Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn, among others, are at risk of seeing a change in uniform in order to fill other vacancies.
Outfield: Carlos Beltran has declined the club's qualifying offer and is now a free agent, making room for super-prospect Oscar Taveras. Allen Craig, who missed some time near the end of the season due to an ankle injury, will be back and could return to the outfield, knocking Jon Jay to the bench and allowing Matt Adams to be a full-time first baseman.
Infield: Craig could however remain at first, potentially making Adams extremely valuable trade bait. Second base belongs to either the young Kolten Wong, or Matt Carpenter, who proved himself with his career year in 2013. Carpenter, though, is a natural third baseman and could move should David Freese be traded. Offensively, the shortstop position is currently a bit of a black hole in the lineup with Pete Kozma's struggles, so this is where fans (and Mozeliak) have turned their attention.
Did you get all that?
The Cardinals have an abundance of young, desirable arms and are in need of a shortstop. The following are some moves (for that elusive shortstop) that the team could pull off based on the talent available and the talent they might be willing to give in return.
*All statistics and figures courtesy of baseball-reference.com.*
Trade for the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki and the Cardinals have become the "will they or won't they?" couple of the offseason. Tuesday, Jason Mastrodonato of MLB.com wrote that the Cards are interested. But Wednesday, Thomas Harding (also of MLB.com) reported that the Rockies had squashed this rumor, claiming "He's not going anywhere, period."
But as we know in baseball, nothing is ever really squashed until one of the teams involved makes a move—contrary to the original proposition or otherwise.
When healthy, Tulo is one of the premier shortstops in the league. And because of this, he is due $130 million over the next seven seasons with a $15 million club option in 2021. It is feasible that the Rockies might want to unload this hefty contract, looking toward their future. And what they would probably seek is pitching, something the Cardinals have in spades (as previously mentioned).
The price would be very high, probably involving Miller, Carlos Martinez and Adams (to replace the newly retired Todd Helton). And as talented as Tulo may be, the Cardinals aren't that desperate for offense, and a move this big would probably come back to haunt them.
Trade for the Rangers' Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar
The Rangers have two shortstops: Andrus, who had a down year, but signed an eight-year, $120 million contract last April, and Profar, previously named MLB's No. 1 prospect before his debut last year. They'll be looking to unload one of them.
The Cardinals have inquired about the Rangers' shortstops, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. But it doesn't seem as if the clubs have thoroughly discussed the possibilities together...yet.
Although Andrus would make the most sense upon first thought—he would probably cost the Cards significantly less than Profar in terms of players—Andrus' contract isn't exactly a desirable debt to have on the payroll. At that point, Mozeliak might as well break the bank for Tulowitzki, who would be an improvement on Andrus.
That being said, dealing for either Profar or Andrus could be a possibility that would shake up the offseason.
Pick up a Free-Agent Shortstop
The free-agent market is currently running thin, but it still may be the Cardinals' best option due to the fact that they wouldn't have to give up any prized players.
Perhaps the best shortstop from this pool is Jhonny Peralta, who hit .303 with 55 RBI in 2013, although he was suspended for 50 games. Beyond Peralta, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan stand out, although this is dangerously close to "not-that-better-than-Kozma" territory.
What would be the best move for the Cardinals in 2014?
Trade Away David Freese
The 2011 World Series MVP could become a factor in a big move, as well. He had a down year in 2013, and as stated above, he's somewhat expendable due to the presence of Carpenter and Wong.
If the Cardinals can find an interested team and pull some strings to get a shortstop, Freese would be very valuable. The news broke on Wednesday (by Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, among others) that the Yankees were interested, leading to fans talking of potential three-way trades.
The Cardinals are, overall, in a pretty good place when it comes to 2014. They have options, and even if none of these proposed big moves becomes a reality, the shortstop bat is only one weak point in a pretty strong offensive lineup.