John Minchillo/Associated Press
Feb. 6, 2014 — Signed free-agent RHP Pat Neshek to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation.
Impact: Neshek, picked up as a low-risk signing days before the start of spring training, could be an interesting pickup for the Cardinals. His right-handed sidearm delivery is quite deceptive. If he can control it, Neshek could be a real asset.
Jan. 6, 2014 — Claimed CF Rafael Ortega off waivers from Texas Rangers.
Impact: While Ortega put up mediocre numbers in 2013, a trio of 30 stolen base seasons in the minor league make him an interesting fit for the Cardinals. Despite that, it’s unlikely he will see any time as a starter in St. Louis.
Dec. 16, 2013 — Signed free-agent 2B Mark Ellis
Impact: The signing of Mark Ellis was a smart move for the Cardinals. In addition to being a solid insurance policy for rookie second baseman Kolten Wong, St. Louis Post-Disptach columnist Bernie Miklasz also sees the signing as another means to combat left-handed pitching that was such a problem late in the season for the Cardinals.
Dec. 9, 2013 — Signed free-agent RHP Angel Castro.
Impact: Castro’s main purpose, at least for the time being, will likely be to replenish the Cardinals Triple-A depth that was heavily depleted last year.
Dec. 2, 2013 — RHP John Axford elected to enter free agency.
Impact: Axford was everything the Cardinals needed late in 2013, solidifying up middle to late relief. He is also a prime example of general manager John Mozeliak not being afraid to cut a player loose before a deal turns sour. The trade benefited both Axford and the Cardinals, but in the end, the Cardinals have the talent to replace him quite effectively.
Nov. 24, 2013 — Signed free-agent SS Jhonny Peralta.
Impact: Even if he has an off season, Peralta stands to be a substantial improvement for the Cardinals. Offensively, Pete Kozma just couldn’t get over the hump in 2013. In the end, it cost him his job. Peralta might not have the defensive talent of Kozma, but his bat should more than make up for it. He has the potential to be the difference-maker for the 2014 Cardinals, giving substantial growth to the team’s weakest position in 2013.
Nov. 22, 2013 — Traded 3B David Freese and RHP Fernando Salas for CF Peter Bourjos and RF Randal Grichuk.
Impact: The trade of Freese and Salas was a win-win for both sides. Both players needed a change of scenery and might re-discover their 2011 success in a new city. What the Cardinals received in exchange—Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk—may very well make the deal quite lopsided in the future. Both are quite promising and have a chance to get a fresh start in St. Louis.
Nov. 5, 2013 — RHP Chris Carpenter announces his retirement. SS Rafael Furcal elects to enter free agency.
Impact: While the loss of Carpenter may sting on an emotional level, in reality the Cardinals have been without him for the better part of two seasons. His role in the dugout as a mentor and influence for the younger arms will be missed more than his on-field performance at this stage. With his new position in the front office, though, it’s likely he’ll still spend plenty of time around the clubhouse.
Nov. 4, 2013 — LF Adron Chambers, LF Brock Peterson and C Rob Johnson elect to enter free agency.
Impact: Of the three, the loss of Chambers will have the biggest effect, and even that should be minimal. Chambers' biggest asset was as a late-inning baserunner due to his speed, a role that with speed now starting in the lineup is largely expendable.
Oct. 31, 2013 — RHP Jake Westbrook elected to enter free agency.
Impact: Much like Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook will be missed more for his role as a veteran on a youthful rotation than for his actions on the field. With that said, I’ve long felt Westbrook was a rather undervalued player by the fanbase. He was 36-32 over four seasons with the Cardinals, and for the most part, was a solid number five man in the rotation capable of getting more ground balls than anyone else on the squad.
Oct. 31, 2013 — RF Carlos Beltran elected to enter free agency.
Impact: The loss of Carlos Beltran was undoubtedly the Cardinals' biggest loss of the year. Fortunately for St. Louis, the Cardinals are able to weather such a loss better than most teams. With the ascension of Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and even Matt Adams (because it shifts Allen Craig), the organization has a load of talent ready to move into the position. While it won’t replace his team leadership, it will help with his on-field performance.