The Cardinals won the NL Central on their way to the NL championship and their second World Series appearance in the last 3 years before losing to the Red Sox in 6 games. The Cardinals hope to continue that hot streak in 2014.
Carlos Beltran, John Axford, David Freese, Edward Mujica, Jake Westbrook, Fernando Salas
Peter Bourjos, Jhonny Peralta, Mark Ellis
Coming off a NL championship, the Cardinals did not have many holes to fill this offseason. GM John Mozeliak worked quickly to fill those holes, trading David Freese for Peter Bourjos and signing Jhonny Peralta before Thanksgiving. Mo added Mark Ellis in December to complete the 2014 roster.
With the trade of Freese, the Cardinals greatly improved their overall defense. Bourjos is a superior center fielder to Jon Jay and, with Freese gone, Matt Carpenter can move to his more natural third base position while making room at second for Kolten Wong. Thus, with one move, the Cardinals improved their defense at 3 positions.
On the flip side, Peralta is a worse defender that the man he's replacing at short, Pete Kozma, however, the Cardinals are counting on his offense more than making up for that difference.
Besides those moves, the biggest change from 2013 is the loss of Carlos Beltran. He will be replaced in right by Allen Craig, with Matt Adams taking over at first. However, keep an eye on top prospect Oscar Taveras this spring as he could force his way into the Cardinals plans.
Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday will round out the lineup. Molina continues to be a MVP caliber player each year with his offense, defense and leadership, while Holliday just continues to rake.
On the pitching side, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller should make up 4/5ths of the starting rotation. The Cardinals lost free agent Jake Westbrook, who ended up retiring this
offseason, but the team has plenty of options to replace
Jaime Garcia is option number one for the Cards, should he prove to be healthy. There are always concerns regarding pitchers coming off shoulder surgery, but the Cardinals could use a lefty in the rotation.
If he is not ready, then one of Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly or Tyler Lyons could step in. However, it seems more likely that Martinez will work out of the pen, while Kelly serves as the long man and Lyons starts the season at AAA.
In the pen, Trevor Rosenthal will handle the closer duties, after his stellar performance in the postseason. Jason Motte is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will likely start the season on the DL. Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness and Randy Choate will also work in relief.
Overall, with their abundance of young arms and improved offense and defense, the Cardinals should once again be the team to beat this year in the NL Central.
For you followers of this blog and Cardinals fans in general, be sure to check out this year's United Cardinals Bloggers annual "Purpose, Perseverance and Power Arms: The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals". In this collection you'll find writing from 17 different Cardinals bloggers (including yours truly), plus a capsule on every player that wore the Birds on the Bat in 2013. Not only that, but you'll get an overall look at what's to come in 2014.
Purpose, Perseverance and Power Arms is available as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle store for $2.99. The book can be read on any of the devices in the Kindle family as well as by downloading Amazon's free reading apps for your computer, tablet or smartphone. It may also be read in your browser directly on Amazon.