Every offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals lose valuable veterans and somehow seemingly always manage to find capable replacements, either through acquisitions or from their productive farm system. The reigning National League champions will have to duplicate that feat again in 2014.
Editor’s Note: This “New Year, New Season” post marks the second in a series where Baseball News Source columnist Jeff Louderback will chronicle each Major League team as spring training draws nearer.
The Cardinals are well-positioned to defend their NL title with a mix of talented young players and veterans who are expected to make the Opening Day roster.
The club also has Oscar Taveras, who is rated as the game’s second best prospect by MLB.com; Kolten Wong, who could be the Opening Day second baseman; and left-handed starting pitcher John Gast, who is slated to open the year at Triple-A Memphis; poised to serve as homegrown Cardinals who might open the season in the minors but contribute at the Major League level in 2014.
Here is a look at what the Cardinals have done this offseason, and moves they could make before spring training:
They made one of the earliest free agent splashes by dishing out a for shortstop Jhonny Peralta to replace veteran Rafael Furcal. Slugging right fielder Carlos Beltran inked a deal with the New York Yankees while right-handed relievers Edward Mujica and John Axford signed with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, respectively
The Cardinals traded 2011 World Series hero and third baseman David Freese and right-handed pitcher Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Peter Bourjos and minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk.
Who’s New/Who’s Back
St. Louis made an early offseason splash by signing 31-year-old shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million contract.
Bourjos and John Jay are expected to compete for the starting center field job. Free agent signee Mark Ellis and Wong will battle for the second base spot.
Matt Carpenter will replace Freese at third base.
Jay, Adams, Craig, Carpenter and Wong are products of the Cardinals’ deep farm system.
What Could Happen Before Opening Day
Bolstered by a rotation featuring Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly (who all climbed the ladder of the club’s minor leagues), the Cardinals did not need to scour the free agent or trade markets for starting pitching help.
Though Mujica and Axford are gone, the bullpen should be a strength with the odd man out in the rotation joining interesting young arms like closer Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Seth Maness. Veterans Jason Motte and Randy Choate are also in the plans.
St. Louis will likely acquire a left-handed reliever, and a backup catcher to team with Yadier Molina. This is a club that has few question marks heading into spring training.