Let me begin by saying that I'm fairly certain Albert Pujols will return to St. Louis. Tom Brady would not leave the Patriots, Kobe Bryant would not leave the Lakers and Alex Ovechkin would not leave the Capitals.
The staple of the St. Louis Cardinals is Albert Pujols. He has always been a Cardinal, and he will always be a Cardinal. However, St. Louis' fate does not solely rest with signing Albert Pujols. There are plenty of players on this team that produce big numbers and come through in clutch situations.
If Pujols were to leave the team, they would have lots of extra money to throw around the league. However, this team pulled off one of—if not—the greatest comebacks in history with more than just high salaries.
This team is about continuity and teamwork, and I believe their best chance of success is to keep this corps together.
Whether or not Edwin Jackson will return is yet to be determined. Jackson has a lot of upside and significantly improved under the guidance of Dave Duncan.
Adam Wainwright's return already helps the defending champs in their quest at a 12th title. He is a true ace and claimed to be about a month away from full recovery. He should be ready to go come spring.
Carpenter returned to old form at season's end and into the postseason. Were it not for his night to remember in Philadelphia, the Cardinals still have 10 titles. He'll finish his career as a Cardinal and rightfully so.
Jaime Garcia is the wild card in the rotation. He has the upside and potential to succeed in St. Louis and could very well turn a lot of heads in 2012. Kyle Lohse is a solid No. 4 in the rotation.
He stepped up and performed well in Wainwright's absence in 2011. The Cardinals' starting pitchers look very solid heading into 2012.
The Gold Glove catcher will remain a Cardinal in 2012. The Cardinals began their offseason with extending Yadier Molina's option through next season. He is the best defensive catcher in the National League.
He might not wave the hottest bat like Brian McCann, but he is a cannon behind the plate. Molina just turned in his best year with the bat, with career highs in batting average (.305), doubles (32), home runs (14), RBI's (65) and runs scored (55). The Cardinals are set behind the plate for their next title run.
Berkman will remain in St. Louis in 2012. He agreed to a one-year extension with the Cardinals and why not? He loved playing here and rightfully earned NL Comeback Player of the Year.
He got his first ring here in St. Louis. When teams like Houston and New York no longer found a use for him, St. Louis gladly accepted him.
It will be hard for Berkman to return to the success that he had in 2011, but he has found a home where the fans love "Big Puma." Were it not for his RBI base hit in the 10th inning of Game 6, there is no World Series in the Gateway to the West.
Skip Schumaker is a utility player. He is Tony La Russa's Jose Oquendo. With La Russa riding into the sunset, it'll be interesting to see where Schumaker fits into the Cardinals' future.
He is a quality player with the bat, and is skilled defensively in all three outfield positions, as well as second base and shortstop. He can even be used as a relief pitcher when things get out of hand in extra innings.
He's a good player to have in the locker room and sitting on your bench. Whether or not he starts at second base next year is yet to be seen. Ryan Theriot could be an option here and Nick Punto could also play the position if he returns in 2012.
Pujols' money has to go somewhere. Reyes has been ready to leave New York for some time now, but has failed to find his way out. It is likely that the Mets will part ways with Reyes this offseason and St. Louis has been connected with him many times.
He fits well in the Cardinals style of ball. St. Louis likes to get people on base and move them into scoring position for their 3-4-5 hitters. Reyes would be exactly what the Cardinals want, providing them with a solid contact hitter and speed on the bases.
He's not the power bat of Pujols, but he is an offensive weapon with a batting average of .337. If the Cardinals move on without Albert, Reyes might be the next best option for St. Louis.
Oh, David Freese. He has become a household name the past few weeks. With stops on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, David Letterman and Ellen DeGeneres, he has probably never found so much fame.
Freese had a remarkable postseason and his performance in Game 6 of the World Series will never be forgotten. Hopefully Freese will be able to carry his postseason success into 2012.
The National League is fairly weak at third base with players like Ryan Zimmerman and Plaxico Polanco leading the charge to the All-Star Game.
Freese is a young player with lots of upside for the St. Louis Cardinals. With a player like Pujols leaving, Freese would need to pick up the slack in the middle of the lineup.
Matt Holliday had a mediocre 2011 for the most part. He was plagued by injuries that bothered him throughout the season and postseason.
Holliday would most likely be called upon to fill Pujols' spot in the lineup. He was a National League Gold Glove nominee this year, and will be a part of the Cardinals organization for years to come.
When Colby Rasmus peaced out of town, Jon Jay was given an opportunity. He made the most of that opportunity. He made stellar plays in center field, and although he struggled in the World Series, he had a solid season and postseason.
He was able to get on base ahead of the middle of the lineup and create havoc for opponents. He made some spectacular catches throughout the year, and had surprising speed on the bases. Jay will have an opportunity to build on his 2011 season next year, and should perform well.
Allen Craig possesses more power than a lot of people think. He could bat cleanup for the Cardinals and thrive. Craig was able to come up huge for the team throughout the season off the bench and also was a good player in the outfield.
With Pujols out of town, Craig would most likely find himself in the starting lineup with his power, maybe even somewhere in the middle. He's another good young player that the Cardinals can incorporate into their lineup for years to come.