Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Offseason Review: The St. Louis Cardinals

With no Albert Pujols or Dave Duncan, first year
manager Mike Matheny led the Cardinals to their
second consecutive wild card.
After going deep in to the playoffs for the second consecutive year as wild card contender (the first yielding a World Series championship) the Cardinals are being appropriately quiet in this offseason. Going in to 2012, St. Louis needed to fill the deep void left by homegrown hero Albert Pujols and long time manager, the mad mad mad mad mad mad mad mad Tony LaRussa. Those roles were covered with surprising grace by Carlos Beltran and Mike Matheny respectively, justifying the relative inactivity on behalf of the St. Louis front office. Lack of flash aside, the Cards did make some moves and roster tweaks that look to make them as pesky as ever in the NL Central.

One notable quality addition is Randy Choate, a journey man left handed relief arm that has been absolutely lights out at points in his career. The signing makes some sense in light of Mark Rzepczynski's relative lack of consistency, but signing any 37 year old to a three year deal, no matter how cheap, carries significant implied risk with it. That being said, the Cardinals seem aware of what their window for success is and are adapting as intelligently as everyone has come to expect them to. Even if Choate sucks or breaks down, the St. Louis pen still has plenty of capable arms to float them through a season.

You can almost hear the fans at Busch Stadium chanting
The Cardinals have one of those problems everyone wants, a glut of young talent. Rafael Furcal is the front runner for starting shortstop with Kozma having proven himself a more than competent backup and Kolten Wong waiting in the wings. The end result is the creation of a certain expendability in players like Skip Schumaker who as a versatile player who would be desirable in many lineups becomes more valuable as a trade chip, which is exactly what he became. Having a roster loaded with youngish talent like that helps you keep your window jammed open that much longer.

One major thing the Cardinals are going to have to cope with is the loss of free agent pitcher Kyle Lohse, who after putting a up Cy Young level performance in 2012 is not likely to re-sign with St. Louis. The aging rotation is probably the biggest risk facing St. Louis, but even if Lohse was re-signed there would be a good chance he wouldn't repeat that kind of year.  I don't expect the Cardinals to win the division with Cincinnati's absolutely staggering lineup looming over the division, but the addition of a second wildcard in each division does make St. Louis a likely contender for the next several seasons to come.

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