The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to look forward to in 2014.
The arrival of Oscar Taveras, a full season from Kolten Wong and a possible rotation slot for Carlos Martinez are all highly anticipated highlights of the season to come.
That’s enough to justify getting anyone excited, but before things begin to get under way, there are decisions that have to be made by Mike Matheny and the front office.
The decisions can be very simple, such as player adjustments and work schedules, or something as difficult as determining a player’s role on the team altogether.
The following list is five things the Cardinals will need to take care of before they head down to Jupiter, Fla. for the start of spring training.
Before diving into any deeper rotation issues, the first situation to investigate is Carlos Martinez.
The question is not “will” he be in St. Louis, the question is “where.”
There is little doubt Martinez would prefer to start, but there will be a lot of competition for the starting rotation this year.
The Cardinals will have to determine soon whether they will be better served with him in the rotation or in the bullpen. He has the raw talent to be effective in both situations, but bouncing him between the two could be detrimental to his development.
Competition is good, but too much can be dangerous to a clubhouse mentality.
The worst-case scenario for the Cardinals would be to see rotation competition create clubhouse resentment because those types of divides can grow deep.
With as many as nine pitchers pushing for five rotation slots, only the best of the best will start the season in the rotation.
It’s possible the team could be benefited by planning on a couple of those pitchers in the bullpen from the start. The Cardinals avoided conflict during the competition in 2013, but there’s no guarantee things will go that smooth in 2014.
By making a few decisions regarding the rotation, the Cardinals will be able to get a peek at an early sketch of the 2014 bullpen.
While Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte are “locks,” there is a lot of flexibility before you reach the eighth inning.
They won’t have it all worked out before spring training, but a head start could help smooth out the transitions that will come.
This is likely the most important of the pre-spring training tasks at hand.
While team leaders are the type of players who know their job, given the shake-ups that followed last season, it will be important for manager Mike Matheny to gather his leaders and give them a good pep talk.
Both Carlos Beltran and David Freese played a big part in the Cardinals' clubhouse culture, and with them out of the picture, it will be important for someone to step in and fill their roles.
A well-balanced clubhouse has played an important role in the Cardinals' success in recent seasons—particularly with the influx of youth in recent years. Expect even more of that in 2014.