With the lackluster finish to the 2013 World Series, at least as far as Cardinals fans are concerned, everyone's attention now turns to the Hot Stove League.
The Cards, who appeared in the 4th World Series over the last decade, but fell short for a second time against the Red Sox, will look to upgrade their team to reach their ultimate goal. Along the way, GM John Mozeliak, Manager Mike Matheny and the rest of the Cardinals brass will have to answer some key personnel questions:
1. Should the Cardinals resign Carlos Beltran?
Although he has already filed for free agency and appears to be looking for a 3-year deal, most likely in the AL, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is not closing any doors, according to Derrick Goold.
The Cards have already made Beltran a qualifying offer, guaranteeing themselves at least a supplemental first round pick in next year's draft.
It might make sense for the Cardinals to bring Beltran back on a 1-year deal, but any more than that and the Cards should pass.
2. Who will man the outfield and first base?
Even if Beltran is not resigned, the Cardinals will still have a bit of a logjam in the outfield and at first base. The Cardinals have Matt Adams and Allen Craig as potential first basemen. If the Cardinals decide to put Adams at first and shift Craig to right to replace Beltran, there is still Oscar Taveras lurking at AAA.
There has been some talk of having Taveras play center field next season, as Jon Jay had an off year and the Cards may be looking for an upgrade offensively.
Plus, there is Stephen Piscotty, who is tearing up the Arizona Fall League (.338/.385/.437) after a strong season split between A and AA (.295/.355/.464).
3. What should the Cardinals do about second and third?
This was the day 2 question of the UCB Roundtable and you can find all the answers from my fellow Cardinals bloggers at Redbird Rants.
Personally, I think the Cardinals should hold on to David Freese, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter, with Carpenter starting everyday, either at second or third, while Frees and Wong form a platoon.
However, the Cards may decide to use Wong or Freese as trade bait as they pursue an upgrade at short this offseason.
4. What do the Cardinals do with all their pitching?
This was another UCB Roundtable question, posed by me and included in this blog. With Jaime Garcia likely to be ready by the start of spring training to go along with incumbents Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha, as well as prospects Carlos Martinez, John Gast and Tyler Lyons, the Cardinals will have an abundance of pitchers vying for the rotation next year.
This is probably why it was leaked recently that the Cards would consider trading Lynn or Miller for an upgrade at short.
In any case, the Cardinals have to sort out all the pieces to this puzzle before opening day.
5. Can the Cardinals find an upgrade at short?
The Cardinals made due with Pete Kozma, basically out of necessity this season, after Rafael Furcal succumbed to injury this spring. However, Kozma's .217 average and .548 OPS just isn't going to cut it offensively.
While he may be a fine defender, its no secret that the Cards are looking for an upgrade.
The Rangers recently indicated that they are willing to move one of their 3 middle infielders (Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar or Ian Kinsler), according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan,which certainly should have gotten the Cardinals' attention.
The Cards could create a package around either Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller for one of Andrus or Profar, but will probably not get into a bidding war.
I discussed other trade possibilities recently and there are also free agents Stephen Drew and Johnny Peralta. So, there are options out there.
Overall, the Cardinals have some key decisions to make and it will be interesting to watch the team take shape this offseason.