While other teams (such as the Cubs) spend years rebuilding, the Cardinals have found success retooling each year, making them seemingly perennial contenders.
Part of that success comes from a farm system that keeps churning out major leaguers at a nice rate, while also supplementing that farm system with wise investments in free agents.
Lose Albert Pujols to free agency. No problem, we'll just add Carlos Beltran and not miss a beat.
If the only thing that Cardinals fans have to complain about is the lack of production from their shortstop and center fielder, while the team ranks first in the NL in runs scored, then you've got a pretty good team.
So, while we idle through the dog days of August, let's take a peek into the future and look at what the Cardinals 2014 lineup and starting rotation might look like.
The big decision here is whether or not to resign Beltran. I've already discussed the argument against resigning Beltran as well as the case for bringing him back on a short-term deal. Other decisions will be who plays second and third and whether the Cardinals want to try to find an upgrade at short.
If it were up to me, I would let Beltran walk and give youngsters such at Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras a chance to replace him. Then trade John Jay and either David Freese or Kolten Wong for an upgrade elsewhere.
Thus, my regular lineup for 2014 would look something like this:
- Matt Carpenter, 2B
- Oscar Taveras, CF
- Matt Holliday, LF
- Allen Craig, RF
- Yadier Molina, C
- Matt Adams, 1B
- David Freese/Kolten Wong, 3B/2B
- Pete Kozma (or possible upgrade), SS
Things are a whole lot murkier in regards to the Cardinals starting rotation.
First, Jake Westbrook is gone after this season. That's pretty much a given.
After that, there has been talk of the Cardinals possibly bringing back Chris Carpenter, even though he might be a long shot to ever pitch again. As much as Carpenter has done for the Cards over the years, I think its time for the team to move on.
The Cards also have two excellent pitching prospects in Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez waiting in the wings. In addition, there is John Gast and Tyler Lyons to consider as well. Plus, let's not forget about Jaime Garcia, who should be healthy by next spring (maybe even in time for this year's playoffs).
Add those guys to projected holdovers Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, and we could be looking at 9 pitchers vying for 5 spots.
The way I see it, if Garcia's proves himself healthy after shoulder surgery, he'll likely occupy a rotation spot along with Wainwright, Miller and Lynn.
Gast, who had shoulder surgery of his own in July, will likely return to AAA to prove he's healthy. Lyons, while excellent at AAA, has yet to prove he can get major leaguers out, so he'll likely stay at AAA or be used as trade bait.
Which likely leaves us with Kelly, Wacha and Martinez battling it out for the last rotation spot.
This could then turn out to be a similar battle to this spring's 5th starter battle between Miller, Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal. I think, like Miller, the Cardinals will want Wacha to win the battle and then will convert Martinez to a reliever (like Rosenthal) and possibly either trade Kelly or send him back to purgatory (i.e. long relief).
Thus, this is how I see the 2014 starting rotation shaping up:
- Adam Wainwright
- Shelby Miller
- Lance Lynn
- Jaime Garcia
- Michael Wacha