Jeff Roberson/Associated Press
With stalwarts Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina leading all that young talent, the Cardinals are the top World Series contender.
Key Additions (via trades, free agency)
SS Jhonny Peralta, OF Peter Bourjos, 2B Mark Ellis
Key Subtractions (via trades, free agency, injuries, suspensions, retirements)
OF Carlos Beltran, 3B David Freese, RHP Edward Mujica
Contender Status: The Player Development Powerhouse
Don't look now, but the top three teams are all (gasp) from the National League, and the best of the bunch, the St. Louis Cardinals, has been saved for last.
After an incredibly successful 2013 that ended with a run to the World Series, there wasn't a heck of a lot for this club to address over the offseason. The biggest black hole, shortstop, shouldn't be a problem anymore with Jhonny Peralta displacing Pete Kozma.
Meanwhile, minor moves addressed other issues. Matt Carpenter takes over at the more familiar hot corner for David Freese, traded for Peter Bourjos to help the outfield defense, and Mark Ellis provides a veteran presence to platoon with rookie Kolten Wong at second base.
Yes, folks, the Cardinals—veritable player development factory that they are—have yet another young player ready to step into a starting job. Last year alone brought, among others (deep breath): Carpenter, Matt Adams, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and postseason revelation Michael Wacha. All of them will be back—and probably better—in 2014.
Besides Wong, who projects to be a heady, steady, top-of-the-lineup player, St. Louis has top prospect Oscar Taveras at its disposal, as soon as he shows his middle-of-the-order bat is ready to replace Carlos Beltran's.
Of course, even with Beltran gone, the Cardinals have their usual suspects of veteran stalwarts too: Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig. Between the stars to be and the stars that already are, this club doesn't quit.
Plenty can change between now and next October, but one thing's for sure: Like the Red Sox showed last year, the best does, in fact, get saved for last.
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