Friday, November 29, 2013

On PED's, Jhonny Peralta and the Cardinals as "morality police"

Ever since Brad Ziegler made his tweet heard 'round the world saying "It pays to cheat" after hearing of the Cardinals 4-year, $53 million signing of Jhonny Peralta, there has been much debate over the whole thing.

While I'm no expect on PED's nor am I extremely moral, I thought it was time to add my 2 cents to the discussion.

First of all, its a bit hypocritical for Ziegler to blame the Cardinals for rewarding Peralta for using PED's when the Cardinals were, after all, operating under the collective bargaining agreement that Ziegler and the other players helped create.  If the players do not like what is going on, then its up to them to push for stronger penalties.

If they truly want to punish players for using PEDs, they have the power to do so.  Call up the owners and ask that they reopen talks.  I'm sure the owners would be willing to make the penalties harsher.  After all, its bad publicity for them anytime someone is caught using PEDs.

Second, Peralta has already been tried, convicted and punished (even though we all know that baseball does not act like a true court of law).  To punish him more for the same crime is ridiculous.  So, even if the players and owners agree to stiffer penalties, they cannot make them retroactive for all players previously caught.

Players, like Ziegler, seem to think that this should be like the Shawshank Redemption, where Brooks is released from prison and given the menial job of bagging groceries, as that is the only thing anyone would trust him to do.  Do people really think that the stigma of using PED's is so great that no one will hire a player after a suspension?

Finally, a player's price is not determined by what he does off the field, it is determined by what he does on the field and, more importantly, supply and demand.  People were looking at Melky Cabrera from last year and comparing Peralta's situation to him and thinking that Peralta would get something like 2-years and $20 million.  However, the supply of quality shortstops is a lot smaller than the supply of quality outfielders, so obviously the price for a good shortstop is going to be much higher.  Add in the fact that signing Peralta did not cost the Cardinals a draft pick and he is even more valuable.

Thus, it did not surprise me too much to see that Peralta got a significant raise over his prior contract.  Its not like the Cardinals were bidding against themselves, other teams were willing to fork over at least 4-years and $50 million plus.  

Short of a lifetime ban for players caught using PEDs, baseball players coming off a PED suspension will continue to find gainful employment and some will likely get raises, much to the chagrin of the Brad Ziegler's everywhere.  Instead of crying about it and lambasting teams for following the rules, perhaps players should actually do something to change the rules. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Johnny Peralta signing sets the Cardinals lineup. But what about their bench?

With the signing of Johnny Peralta, the Cardinals starting lineup is set for 2014.  As of right now, the 2014 lineup would look like this:

C - Yadier Molina (Right handed)
1B - Matt Adams (Left handed)
2B - Kolten Wong (L)
SS - Johnny Peralta (R)
3B - Matt Carpenter (L)
LF - Matt Holliday (R)
CF - Peter Bourjos (R)
RF - Allen Craig (R)

Jon Jay (L) will be relegated to the bench and Oscar Taveras (L) will likely start the season in AAA.  However, once Taveras is ready its likely that the Cardinals will trade Jay to make room for him.

With Daniel Descalso (L) likely acting as utility infielder and Tony Cruz (or some other seldom used catcher) acting as Molina's backup, the Cardinals will still have two spots to fill on their bench.

Shane Robinson (R) could fill one spot, as the 4th or 5th outfielder, but the Cardinals could use a right handed hitter for their bench, particularly one who can play the infield (2B, 3B and 1B), as they've got an abundance of lefty-hitting infielders.

Pouring over the options, I think the Cardinals should pursue Jeff Baker.

Not only is he capable of playing 1B, 2B, 3B and the corner outfield spots, but he kills lefties.  For his career, he has hit .298/.353/.522 against left handers, including 35 homers in 751 at bats.  Plus, even though he is 32, he showed no signs of slowing down in 2013, hitting .297/.390/.653 including 10 homers in 101 at bats against lefties.

He would be the perfect compliment to a primarily left handed infield and would basically fill the role that Ty Wigginton was suppose to fill last year.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cardinals buy low (and sell low) in David Freese trade

After a couple of days of talking, the Cardinals and Angels finally agreed to a trade yesterday sending David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and prospect Randal Grichuk.

When I first heard the news, I wasn't too thrilled with the idea.  First, Freese, who hits lefties pretty well, could provide the Cardinals with a platoon option for Kolten Wong.  Second, what do the Cardinals need with another outfielder? 

However, the more I looked into Bourjos' stats, the more I liked him.  He is generally considered one of the best center fielders in baseball.  Per Fangraphs, his 20.2 UZR/150 since 2010 is the highest in all of baseball during that time.

In addition, his platoon splits do not scream part-time player (like Freese's do).  For his career, he has a .706 OPS against lefties and a .703 OPS against righties.  You can't get much closer than that. 

Granted, Freese has a career .783 OPS and is arguably the better hitter than Bourjos, but Bourjos' defense more than makes up for it.  During his career, Freese has a cumulative WAR of 8.2, however, Bourjos' career WAR is 9.0 in 619 fewer at bats.

Bourjos will take over center field for Jon Jay and Wong will take Freese's spot in the lineup, playing second while Matt Carpenter moves over his natural third base position.  Thus, not only will the center field defense improve, but the infield defense should as well.

The only drawback I can see is that there is now no spot for Oscar Taveras, as some had suggested he could take over center for Jay.  However, Taveras has to prove himself healthy next season, after missing significant time with an ankle injury.  Once he does, the Cardinals will find a spot for him.

Finally, I haven't even talked about the other piece the Cardinals got, Grichuk.  Grichuk ranked 6th among the Angels top prospects prior to the 2013 season, according to Baseball America.  Grichuk had 22 homers in AA last season, but hit only .256.  In general, he shows above average power, but is a bit of a free-swinger.

Overall, the general consensus is that it was a good deal for the Cardinals and I see no reason to disagree.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Latest Trade Rumors: Cardinals actively looking to trade David Freese and Rangers' shortstops may no longer be an option

Things are heating up on the David Freese front while Texas' trade of Ian Kinsler has many wondering where the Cardinals will find a shortstop, as the Hot Stove Heats up.

David Freese

Reports surfaced yesterday that the Cardinals were talking to the Angels about a possible David Freese trade (first reported by Ken Rosenthal via Twitter).  Rosenthal further reported that the Cardinals were looking for outfield depth and that the sides were still in the "discussion phase".  The Angels have young outfielders, such as Peter Bourjos, J.B. Shuck and Kole Calhoun that could interest the Cards.

I find it somewhat puzzling that the Cardinals would be looking for additional outfielders, when the have some talented youngsters of their own, such as Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and even Mike O'Neill waiting in the wings.

Perhaps its an indication that the Cardinals may be looking to move someone like Matt Adams or Jon Jay in another trade to acquire a shortstop.

In any case, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register indicated that the Cardinals would not trade Freese for Bourjos straight up and that some more pieces need to be involved, but they are still working on it.

Update:  The Cardinals have traded Freese and Fernando Salas for the Angles' Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.  I will post details later...


The Cardinals search for a shortstop hit an unexpected roadblock this week when the Rangers traded second baseman Ian Kinsler to Detroit for Prince Fielder.  Although Ken Rosenthal indicated that the Rangers are still open to trading either Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, it seems less likely now.

With Andrus and Profar off the table, Bernie Miklasz breaks down the other options for the Cards, with J.J. Hardy listed as his "best fit".

While Hardy won the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove last year, it appears that he has his drawbacks as well.  For one thing, he is only signed through the 2014 season and it appears that the Orioles asking price (Shelby Miller) is pretty high.

I, for one, do not want to give up Miller for a one-year rental, however, as Miklasz points out, there doesn't appear to be a lot of other great options.

Perhaps the Cardinals can find some way to pry Erick Aybar away from the Angels while they are working on the Freese trade or perhaps the Rangers might be more willing to trade Andrus or Profar if the Cardinals include Kolten Wong (to replace Kinsler at second).  However, that won't happen if the Cards trade Freese.

In any case, it looks like Freese could be on the move soon and we might have to wait a while before the shortstop position is filled.

Annual United Cardinals Bloggers Awards

Since its the end of November, its time for the annual United Cardinals Bloggers awards.  This is my first year running a Cardinals blog and thus my first year voting.  Below you can find the official ballot and my selections for each.  To check out the other bloggers' ballots, go to

Team Awards

1) Cardinal Position Player of the Year
–Matt Carpenter
–Allen Craig
–Yadier Molina
–Write-in: ___________

To me, this was a no-brainer.  Not only did Yadi have another fine offensive year, but he was another pitching coach on the field and the Cardinals went through a seemingly endless supply of rookie pitchers.  Without him, I do not think we would have made the playoffs.

2) Cardinal Pitcher of the Year
–Edward Mujica
–Trevor Rosenthal
–Adam Wainwright
–Write-in: ___________

Another no-brainer.  Adam Wainwright was the best starter and returned to his proper place as ace of the Cardinals staff.  

3) Game of the Year
May 10 vs. Colorado (Miller’s almost-perfecto)
May 11 vs. Colorado (Wainwright’s no-hitter into 8th)
August 26 vs. Cincinnati (comeback capped by Craig slam)
September 4 at Cincinnati (Adams 2 extra-inning HR)
September 24 vs. Nationals (Wacha near no-no)
Game 4, NLDS
–Write-in: ____________

I went with Game 4 of the NLDS.  Facing elimination, Michael Wacha pitched a 1 hitter through 7.1 innings, giving up only a solo homer to Cardinals killer Pedro Alvarez in the 8th, before fellow rookies Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal shut the door.

4) Surprise Player of the Year
–Matt Carpenter
–Joe Kelly
–Edward Mujica
–Kevin Siegrist
–Write-in: ______________

Mujica stepped up big time this year, becoming the Cardinals closer after Jason Motte was lost to injury and Mitchell Boggs fell apart.  It was a huge leap for a career middle reliever and he took to his new role well.

5) Disappointing Player of the Year
–David Freese
–Pete Kozma
–Fernando Salas
–Write-in: _______________

Freese's lack of production in 2013 was surprising after a very good year in 2012 and may open the door for Kolten Wong (and an offseason trade for Freese).

6) Rookie of the Year
–Matt Adams
–Carlos Martinez
–Shelby Miller
–Michael Wacha
–Write-in: ______________

While Wacha was outstanding in the postseason, there would have been no postseason if not for the excellent work turned in by Miller.  His 15 wins and 3.09 ERA were second to Adam Wainwright among the Cardinals regular starters.

7) Acquisition of the Year
–John Axford
–Randy Choate
–Write-in: ______________

I'm sure most of you would pick Ty Wigginton for acqusition of the year (just kidding), but considering how few moves the Cardinals made, Choate was just what the Cards needed.  The epitome of a LOOGY, Choate only pitched 35.1, but had a 2.29 ERA and held lefties to a .176 average.

8) Most Anticipated Cardinal
–Stephen Piscotty
–Lee Stoppleman
–Oscar Taveras
–Write-in: ______________

Injuries derailed Taveras' season, but they did not diminish his top prospect status.

Blog Awards

9) Best Individual Cardinal Blog*
–Write-in: _Retro Simba

Like most baseball fans, I get caught up in the history of the game and Retro Simba provides a unique perspective on the history of the Cardinals.

10) Best Team Cardinal Blog*
–Write-in: Viva el Birdos

There is no surprise that VeB has been around for so long.

*–Individual means the blog was written mainly by one person, while a team blog is composed usually by two or more. For classification’s sake, each blog under The Cardinal Conclave label are considered separate entities and should be considered in either team (Pitchers Hit Eighth) or individual (everyone else).

11) Best Media Coverage
–Derrick Goold
–Jenifer Langosch
–Stan McNeal
–Bernie Miklasz
–Joe Strauss
–Write-in: ____________

Langosch has proven time and again that she belongs with the big boys.

12) Best Rookie Cardinal Blog
–Dose of Buffa
–stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page
–The View From Here
–Write-in: ____________

Good writing and analysis.

13) Post of the Year
Bad Body Language Has No Place In Baseball (Cardinals Fan in Cubs Land)
Closing The Book On The John Axford Trade (On The Outside Corner)
Doors Close On The Cardinals In 2013 (Dose of Buffa)
How A B-17 Nearly Clipped Cardinals In World Series (RetroSimba)
Matt Holliday: One Of The Most Cost Effective Players In Baseball (stlcupofjoe’s Sports Page)
Memories Help Come To Terms With The Season’s End (Aaron Miles’ Fastball)
RIP Stan The Man (Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball)
Time For The Relievers (The View From Here)
What Does Your Cardinals Jersey Say About You? (C70 At The Bat)
–Write-in: _______________

I voted for the "RIP Stan The Man" piece.  It was a fine tribute to "The Man".

14) Best UCB Project
Cardinal HOF Inductees
Cardinal HOF Memorabilia
Top 7 Prospects
–Write-in: ____________

I like doing the roundtables with everyone and getting their perspective on the Cardinals.

15) Best UCB Podcast
–Conversations With C70
–Gateway To Baseball Heaven
–UCB Radio Hour
–Write-in: _None-I don't follow podcasts

16) Best UCB Twitterer
–Write-in: None - I don't follow twitter much

So, those are my picks.  Who or what would you have picked differently?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cardinals set 40-man roster before next month's rule 5 draft. Who did they leave exposed?

Wednesday was the deadline for major league teams to set their 40-man rosters prior to the December 12th Rule 5 draft.  As such, the Cardinals made a series of moves to protect their key prospects.

First, they tried to clear some extra space by putting Ryan Jackson on waivers, however he was claimed by the Houston Astros.  Despite the Cardinals struggles with Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso at short, Jackson never seemed to be an option, at least in the minds of Cardinals management, thus clearing him off the roster makes sense.

Second, the Cardinals removed pitcher John Gast and infielder Jermaine Curtis from the 40-man roster.  Gast is a question mark for 2014 after undergoing shoulder surgery and Curtis is not in the Cards long range plans.

Finally, the Cardinals added Oscar Taveras, outfielder Mike O'Neill and infielder Greg Garcia to their 40-man roster.

Taveras was a no-brainer.  The Cardinals would have never left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.

O'Neill has been proving critics wrong for years, by his ability to hit for average and get on base (career .328/.435/.405 line in the minors).  He has little power or speed, but if his skills translate to the majors, he can be at least a quality 4th or 5th outfielder.

Garcia is a quality middle infield prospect who started getting some work at third this year.  He has a career .281/.386/.403 line in the minors and should prove to be at least a good utility infielder in the majors.

Yesterday, Derrick Goold provided a pretty comprehensive list of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the Cardinals organization, based on that and the above moves, here are the players I think could potentially be drafted next month.

John Gast

I was a bit surprised that the Cardinals dropped Gast from the 40-man roster.  Although he underwent surgery to repair a torn lat in July, he still is a quality prospect and any team that drafts him can stash him on the DL until he's healthy.  In my mind, he's the most likely Cardinal to get selected next month.

Boone Whiting

An 18th round pick in 2010, Whiting has decent minor league numbers (3.13 ERA in 345 innings) despite the lack of overpowering stuff.  His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range, but he has a quality slider to go with it.  Some team could select him as a bullpen arm.

Seth Blair

A first round pick (46th overall) in 2010, Blair has dealt with control issues, inconsistency and injuries in his minor league career.  He posted a 5.07 ERA at AA this year and still has a mid-90's fastball, but may be better suited for relief.

Jordan Swagerty

A second round pick in 2010, Swagerty has a nice minor league debut in 2011, posting a 1.83 ERA in 93.2 innings.  However, he had Tommy John surgery in April 2012 and pitched just 10.2 innings in 2013.

He has a mid-90's fastball and an excellent curve and could be another guy that a team could select and stash on the D.L. while he works his way back.

Robert Stock

Stock was drafted as a catcher but was converted to a pitcher in 2012.  He pitched for USC in college and flashed a low-to-mid-90's fastball and an average slider.  He's still pretty raw (4.20 ERA in 109.1 innings in the minors), but could be stashed in a major league bullpen.

Overall, you will notice that all of the above players are pitchers, mainly because teams usually select pitching in the Rule 5 draft, as its easier to stash a pitcher in a major league bullpen, and because the hitters the Cardinals left unprotected are not so special.

I think that Gast is likely to be chosen and possibly even Whiting, which will greatly hurt the Cardinals depth.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Why Elvis Andrus is my pick to be the next Cardinals shortstop.

Ever since Cardinals GM John Mozeliak stated that he was willing to trade young pitching for a young controllable shortstop, the rumors have been flying as to who the Cards might acquire.  There's been speculation regarding Troy Tulowitzki, Jed Lowrie, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew and, of course, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar of the Rangers.

After careful consideration of all of the alternatives, I think that Elvis Andrus of the Rangers would be the best fit for the Cardinals.

Here's why:

He's young and controllable

First off, Andrus meets Mozeliak's own criteria of being "young and controllable".  Andrus is only 25 year's old and is signed through 2022 (although he can opt out of his contract after 2018 or 2019).  Sure, his contract is not cheap--he will make $6.475 million in 2014 and $15 million a year through 2018, but the Cardinals have the money to afford him.

He's available

The Rangers have said that they are willing to trade one of the middle infielders (Andrus, Profar or Ian Kinsler).  Trading Andrus probably makes the most sense for them, as it would help them shed salary while opening up a spot for Profar.

He can hit lefites

As I pointed out in a previous article, the Cardinals need to improve their lineup against lefties and Andrus would do just that.  For his career, Andrus has hit .273/.346/.352 against lefties and .275/.337/.347 against righties.  Pretty even splits.

He's got speed

One thing the Cardinals offense lacked last season was speed.  The Detroit Tigers were the only team in baseball with fewer stolen bases than the Cardinals 45 (the Tigers had 35).  Andrus nearly matched the Cardinals total by himself, with 42 stolen bases in 2013.  He would fit nicely atop the Cardinals lineup along with Matt Carpenter. 

But, what about the other candidates?  How do they stack up?

Troy Tulowitzki

Tulo is 29 years old and signed through 2020.  He is set to make $16 million in 2014 and then $20 million a year through 2019 before dropping back down to $14 million in 2020.  While a better all around hitter than Andrus and at least comparable defensively, the downside to him is his injury history and availability.

In his career, Tulowitzki has only appeared in over 150 games twice in 7 seasons.  Andrus has averaged over 150 games a year in his 5 seasons. 

In addition, Tulo does not appear to be on the block.  That's not to say the Rockies wouldn't trade him, but the Cardinals would likely have to overpay to get him (one so-called expert suggested Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal AND Allen Craig, i.e. NOT GONNA HAPPEN).

Jed Lowrie

Lowrie is 29 but is signed only through the 2014 season.  This is probably his biggest drawback, as, not only would the Cardinals have to give up some prospects for him, but then they would risk losing him after only one season.

That said, the asking price for him would probably be lower, but there has been no indication that the A's are willing to trade him in the first place.

J.J. Hardy

The Orioles reportedly offered the Cardinals Hardy for Shelby Miller, which the Cards quickly turned down.  Hardy is already 31 years old and is only signed through 2014, so, like Lowrie, there is a risk that the Cardinals could be back in this same predicament after the 2014 season, only down a prospect or two.

Not a very appealing option.

Stephen Drew

Drew, a free agent, wouldn't cost the Cardinals any young arms, just money.  However, he will be 31 to start the 2014 season and to get him the Cards would probably have to sign him to at least a 4-5 year deal.

The biggest drawback for Drew is his inability to hit lefties.  He hit just .196/.246/.340 against lefties in 2013 and just .235/.291/.390 for his career.  In fact, since 2010, he has gotten progressively worse in his splits against lefties, going from a .255 average in 2010, to .224 in 2011, .198 in 2012 and .196 in 2013.

Jurickson Profar

Of all of the other candidates, Profar would probably be my second choice.  At 20, he is younger and cheaper than Andrus, and would be under team control for another 5 years (if my math is right).  However, he has yet to prove himself at the major league level and yet would probably cost more in a trade than Andrus, mainly because of his salary and high upside.

So, given all of the above, I would like to see Mozeliak make a big push for Andrus.  It may take a package of Shelby Miller and Matt Adams to acquire him, but I think it would be worth it.  If the price goes significantly beyond that, then Mo should turn to Plan "B" (whatever that is).

What are your thoughts?  Who would you like to see the Cardinals go after?  I will post a poll on the homepage and you can discuss your choice in the comments section.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Catching up on the Cardinals trade rumors

We're only about two weeks into the Hot Stove league and the trade rumors are already heating up for the Cardinals.  Two areas that appear to be on the front burner are the quest for a shortstop and whether or not to trade David Freese.

Here's a look at the rumors surrounding those two areas:

The Quest for a Shortstop

John Mozeliak made it known shortly after the end of the season that he was willing to trade one of his young starting pitchers for a "young controllable shortstop", per Jim Bowden, and its been rumored that Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller are on the block.

The Cardinals have already checked in on Texas' Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, who are both on the block (along with Ian Kinsler) and reportedly talked with the Rockies about Troy Tulowitzki during the GM/owner meetings (per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports).

The Rockies, apparently not liking what the Cardinals had to offer, were quick to say that they were not trading Tulowitzki, according to John Heyman.  Perhaps this is just a way to gain leverage and drive up Tulo's price or they are dead serious.  In any case, it appears that Tulowitzki is off the table, for now.

Of course, if the asking price for Tulowitzki is as high as was suggested by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (Allen Craig, Shelby Miller AND Trevor Rosenthal), then its probably for the best.

The Cardinals then apparently turned their attention to Oakland's Jed Lowrie, according to Peter Gammons.  However, A's manager Bob Melvin put the kibosh on that rumor saying that "Maybe [the Cardinals] made a call and inquired about him ... we’re not looking to move Jed Lowrie."

The Orioles then decided to jump into the fray and see if the Cardinals were overspend for a shortstop by offering J.J. Hardy for Shelby Miller.  They were promptly turned down, much to the relief of Cardinals fans everywhere.

So, where does that leave us?

Basically, it appears that only Hardy and one of Andrus or Profar are on the market at this point.  Perhaps the Cardinals could pry away Tulowitzki or Lowrie, if they overpay, but I don't see that happening.  As Jennifer Langosch points out, the Cardinals are unlikely to mortgage the farm for a shortstop.

What to do with David Freese?

Throughout the 2013 season, there was much speculation as to what will become of David Freese, sub par years have a way of raising those questions.

Bernie Miklasz posted a nice article recently going through the various options that the Cardinals have concerning Freese, so I won't regurgitate those here, however, it basically boils down to holding onto him or trading him.

The Yankees have talked to the Cardinals about Freese as a fallback for PED dispenser Alex Rodriguez, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, but there does not appear to be any traction in those talks, as of now.

Personally, I would like to see the Cardinals hold on to Freese.  As I pointed out in my article the other day, Freese hits lefties well and would be at minimum a platoon partner with Kolten Wong and a valuable bat off the bench.

That pretty much catches us up-to-date on the latest Cardinals rumors.  I will continue to report on the latest rumors as they pop up.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How can the Cardinals improve their lineup against lefthanders?

Its no secret that the Cardinals struggled against left handed pitchers in 2013.  As a team, the Cards hit just .238/.301/.371 against southpaws and their .672 OPS against lefties was 13th in the NL.  This was highlighted even more in the postseason, when the Cards hit a combined .211/.268/.295 (.563 OPS) against lefties, including two losses in the World Series against Jon Lester, who allowed only 1 run against the Cardinals in 15.1 innings.

Its pretty obvious that the Cardinals need to make some adjustments to their roster in order to fare better against lefties.  Here are my suggestions for doing just that:

1.  Hold on to David Freese

The much maligned Freese had a down year in 2013, hitting just .262/.340/.381 with 9 homers, after a 2012 campaign which saw him hit .293/.372/.467 with 20 homers.  With Freese eligible for arbitration this year and projected to earn $4.4 million, per MLB Trade Rumors, many are saying the Cardinals should trade Freese and install Kolten Wong as the everyday second baseman (thereby moving Matt Carpenter back to his natural position at third).

However, I think the Cardinals would be wise to hold on to Freese.

They can make Freese a platoon partner with lefty Wong and help strengthen a pretty weak bench.  Essentially, Freese would be filling the role that Ty Wigginton was suppose to for just about $2 million more.

He would give the Cardinals some much needed pop off the bench and be a fallback should Wong struggle.

2.  Find a better shortstop

This is something the Cardinals are already working diligently on.  The Cardinals desperately need to upgrade offensively over Pete Kozma at short.

Kozma hit just .217/.275/.273 on the season, but he was even worse against lefties, hitting just .184/.280/.256, by far the worst on the team.  If the Cards want to improve against lefties, replacing Kozma would go a long way towards that goal.

The guy on the top of my list to replace Kozma would be Elvis Andrus.

Not only would provide the Cardinals with a bona fide leadoff man and some much needed speed, but look at these lefty/righty splits:

vs RHP as RHB .275 .337 .347 .684
vs LHP as RHB .273 .346 .352 .698
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 11/13/2013.
You cannot get much more consistent than that.

3.  Add a righthanded OF to the bench

Kozma was just one of two Cardinals regulars who struggled against lefties in 2013.  The other was Jon Jay.

Jay hit just .220/.306/.314 against southpaws, but hit .291/.363/.386 against righties.  Maybe 2013 was an aberration for Jay, as he is a career .269/.343/.346 hitter against lefties.  However, I do not want to take that chance, not when there's an opportunity for improvement.

Jay got most of the starts against lefties as the Cardinals alternative, Shane Robinson, wasn't much better (.228/.319/.278 against lefties in 2013).

Thus, the Cardinals need to find an upgrade over Robinson for their 4th outfielder/backup center fielder.

Thankfully, this year's free agent crop offers 3 guys who can fill the bill.  Rajai Davis (.294/.354/.425), Franklin Gutierrez (.287/.344/.474) and Reed Johnson (.311/.366/.456) all hit lefties very well and would fit nicely in a platoon with Jay. 

All are capable of playing center field, but Davis is probably the best defender of the bunch.  In addition, all of them should be relatively cheap.  Gutierrez made $7 million last year, but will likely have to take a hefty pay cut, as he amassed just 295 at bats over the last two years due to injuries.  Davis made just $2.5 million in 2013 and Johnson made just $1.6 million, so neither of them will break the bank.

Personally, I would like to see the Cards sign Davis.  

With these moves, here's how the Cardinals lineup and bench could stack up:

Lineup vs Righties

  1. Elvis Andrus, SS
  2. Matt Carpenter, 3B
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Allen Craig, RF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Matt Adams, 1B
  7. Jon Jay, CF
  8. Kolten Wong, 2B
  • David Freese
  • Rajai Davis
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Shane Robinson
  • Tony Cruz
Lineup vs Lefties

  1. Elvis Andrus, SS
  2. Matt Carpenter, 2B
  3. Matt Holliday, LF
  4. Allen Craig, RF
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. David Freese, 3B
  7. Matt Adams, 1B
  8. Rajai Davis, CF
  • Kolten Wong
  • Jon Jay
  • Daniel Descalso
  • Shane Robinson
  • Tony Cruz
While not perfect (Adams only hit .231 against lefties in 2013), its still an improvement over the 2013 lineup and would give the Cardinals a more balanced team against both lefties and righties.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Questions abound as Hot Stove League heats up for Cardinals

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'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.

UCB Roundtable Day 3: The Cardinals 2014 starting rotation

For the United Cardinals Bloggers November project, we are conducting a roundtable discussion taking a look at the 2013 season and what the 2014 season may bring.  To follow the Roundtable, be sure check out the United Cardinals Bloggers' website.

Today's question, posed by your truly, was as follows:

With incumbents Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly returning, Jaime Garcia and John Gast likely returning from injury and Carlos Martinez, Tyler Lyons, Seth Maness and even Trevor Rosenthal as possibilities for the starting rotation, who would want in the starting rotation and what would you do with all the leftovers?

Here are the responses from my partners in crime.

Christine Coleman - Aaron Miles' Fastball

So many arms! So few starting slots! Obviously Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha are in the rotation, and Jaime Garcia too. Trevor Rosenthal, as John Mozeliak said the other day, is going to be in the bullpen and Seth Maness was too valuable this season with his double-play-inducing magic out of the bullpen to give that up. 

Despite all that he did this season, I just don't see Joe Kelly being guaranteed a spot and can see another spring training competition happening -- probably with the remaining pitchers you listed here, in John Gast, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons. I really liked Martinez in that eighth inning role out of the bullpen, though, and he succeeded there but I can see him more as a starter. Gast seems headed to Memphis for me. Lyons is intriguing -- perhaps in the bullpen to begin with, but available as a starter as needed too or if someone else falters (which of course won't happen, right?)

Mark Tomasik - Retro Simba

Strongest rotation: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia. Like Wacha, Martinez is a special talent and needs to start.

Trade material: Lance Lynn or Joe Kelly for a starting shortstop.

Bullpen: Trevor Rosenthal, closer; Lynn or Kelly, 8th inning; Seth Maness, 7th inning; Kevin Siegrist and Randy Choate as left-handed specialists.

Ready in Memphis: Tyler Lyons and John Gast are on-call to replace an injured or faltering starter.

Daniel Solzman, Redbird Rants

I couldn’t agree more.  So many arms, not enough spots!

Christine Coleman (follow-up)
In seeing Mark Tomasik's reply, I realized I totally forgot to mention Lance Lynn. And, not surprisingly, that's because I don't see him staying -- trade bait, for sure, hopefully part of a trade to land a quality shortstop.

In my opinion, you give every single pitcher that wants to start a chance to do so in Spring Training, and this includes Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist. Will both likely end up in the bullpen? Yep, but down the road when it comes time to re-sign them, the Cardinals will have the leverage to say that they at least gave them a shot to be a starting pitcher. Otherwise, their agents could use that against the Cardinals saying they "misused" their client or "didn't allow them to reach their full potential."

However, this is my starting rotation at this time: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Jaime Garcia, and Carlos Martinez. I honestly believe Martinez has the best "stuff" of that group and has the potential to become great. Will he succeed in the role as a starting pitcher? That is yet to be seen, but we will never know until he is given that shot. The bullpen will always be a solid fallback option for Baby Pedro.

As Mark said, this leaves Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn out. Do I think they are able to bring the return that the Cardinals want at shortstop? No. Thus, given the risk of injuries, especially with Garcia (as most of you will soon find out, I am not a big fan of his), I think you hang on to Kelly and Lynn for at least the first part of the season. Gast, who I do not think will be healthy yet, will be in Memphis, and Lyons will likely be in the 'pen or shipped out.

Ben Chambers - The View From Here
This is a great problem to have. The Cardinals have too many talented starting pitchers and they have to figure out who it’s going to be in the rotation! 

Let’s start off with the easy ones: John Gast had shoulder surgery near the end of July. The initial reports were unclear as to the timetable for him to get back, but reported that it would be 8 to 12 months. If that is the case, then the earliest he would be able to throw again is right around opening day, so I expect him to be in Memphis getting stronger and being able to step in during the middle/late season if injury prompts a need for him. 

Mo and Matheny have already said that Rosenthal is coming back as the closer. This is probably the best move for the team. Motte will be back next year, but there are too many questions that need to be answered first: Will he be able to pitch on back-to-back days? Will his stamina hold all season? Will he have a semi-struggling year like Wainwright did coming back from Tommy John? Will he still be able to hit 100 on the mound? There are just too many unknowns at this point. I hope that the Cardinals give him a shot in 2015 (although I am not sure how much of a shot he’ll have then, either), but for 2014 he’s needed in the 9th inning.

So, that leaves: Wainwright, Miller, Garcia, Lynn, Wacha, Kelly, Martinez, Lyons, and Maness. I think Maness continues in the bullpen. It’s always nice to have a guy out there who you can trust to come in the game with runners on in late innings. Even if he doesn’t get all the double plays next year, every bullpen needs at least one guy like that. Lynn has been up-and-down both of the last two years, and I really hope that they put him in the bullpen. He has the ability to be great, and he’s shown that, but he also has the ability to lose quite a few in a row, and he’s shown that, too. 

Wainwright, Wacha, and Garcis are the only three that are locks for the rotation. Wainwright because he is the ace, Wacha because he is so talented, and he has ice running through his veins. Garcia because he has been a starter the entire time he’s been with the Cardinals and being a lefty, it does keep the rotation from being strictly right-handed. 

I expect Lyons to also be in Memphis. He was great his first few starts, but then he just went downhill. I don’t know why, but maybe the Cardinals do. Either way, he probably needs a little time to get himself back on track a little, and Memphis will provide him that opportunity.

Who gets the last two spots? I think it’s Miller and Martinez. I would personally like it to be Miller and Kelly. I think Kelly has good stuff, and he showed it in 2013. He was one of the best pitchers in the second half last year. Lowest ERAs for the second half of 2013 in the NL: Kershaw at 1.59, Grienke at 1.85, and Kelly at 1.91. I really like him, and I think he can be a 15-20 game winner if the Cardinals give him a chance. Martinez might get the nod over him, but I would be personally upset if it happens. Kelly currently is the better pitcher. If Martinez gets the spot, Kelly will go back to being the long man out of the bullpen. If Kelly gets the spot, I expect Martinez to be in Memphis.

No matter who actually gets into the rotation, I am excited to see those arms. The depth that the Cardinals have in starting pitching is unlike any other team has. I will end with this stipulation: I could see one or two of those guys being traded to get a SS, and that would change this quickly, but as of right now, that’s what I think will happen.

John Nagel -

My rotation would be Wainwright, Miller, Wacha, Martinez, and Garcia as well. The potential for those five is out of the planet. Joe Kelly is intriguing, but I think he is near his peak value, but that doesn't mean I want to trade him. I think he is great in the clubhouse and would be a great fit in the bullpen.

What to do with the others..... 

Lynn: I am going to disagree with you all that Lance Lynn does not have that much trade value. I think people in St. Louis value him a little lower than those in other MLB cities. If you look at his numbers and take out the emotion, he has had a couple of solid seasons. I am not saying that Lynn alone would net Profar or even Starlin Castro, but he could be a very valuable trade chip. How many other teams would want a perennial 15 game winner?

Rosenthal: Don't let Mozeliak fool you, Rosenthal will end up the 8th inning guy on one condition, if Jason Motte is healthy. I know that Mo said he will begin spring as the closer, but what else should he say? Motte is not guaranteed to be healthy by then, but i don't think Jason loses his closing spot due to injury. Wally Pipp may disagree with me.

Maness: As much as I want Maness to start, the role he played this year was best for the team, plus there isn't a starting spot for him in St. Louis. He is one that could be a very solid starter somewhere else, but i am fine with him as the DP man.

Lyons and Gast: Both begin the season in Memphis with opportunities to fill in at the MLB level.

Daniel Shoptaw - C70 At The Bat

I'd agree pretty much entirely with what John wrote, but for his comments on Rosenthal. In my mind, Rosie will be the closer, because by time you can be comfortable with Motte and his recovery, Rosenthal will already be entrenched.  Given the myriad of issues surrounding a hard-throwing reliever coming off surgery, including command issues, I can't imagine that Motte would be anything more than an eighth-inning guy.  Should Rosenthal stumble and Motte look good, they might flip, but I'd be shocked if Rosenthal doesn't get the first save chance of the year.

That's a bit off topic, but being that I can't disagree with a rotation of Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Garcia and Martinez, what else am I going to say?

Dan Buffa - Dose of Buffa

Being late to the party, I will basically break things down as best as I can without being redundant.   

Barring further injury, my starting rotation out of the listed candidates has to Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez unless Lance Lynn finds a way to be not be traded.  

Lynn is premium trade material.  He has a fine resume that includes over 30 wins in two seasons and good bullpen work.   He is young and hungry and may need a change of scenery to lower his pouting potential.  

Jaime is making 7 million this year so he needs to be in the rotation and he is a lefty who can be great when he is on.  Let's hope his feelings are in check.

Joe Kelly is Mr. Stretch.   He can start, relieve, and close and will find himself in that long arm bullpen spot to begin the season as insurance in case someone gets hurt.  Few can do what he does effectively.   Be solid out of the bullpen and win a lot of starts.  His mindset is key and helps him adjust.  I am surprised teams don't target him in a trade because of his versatility.  

Lyons and Gast are Memphis starters until injuries happen.   They performed well in 2013 but won't climb over guys like Martinez and Kelly for starts, at least not again.  These guys are also trade depth because they proved they can come up to big leagues and instantly win games.  Look for them to be add on's to big deals Mozelaik keeps up his sleeve.

Trevor Rosenthal is a setup-closer with this team for a long time.   He has the makeup, ability and finish to go into the ninth and let it rip.  We saw it for good when he saved 3 games in the final week of the season and basically made the Pirates, Dodgers and Red Sox look stupid for a month.   He has a propane heater and a decent changeup and if he was going to try his hand at starting again, he would have to redefine that third pitch.   I get why he wants to start but at this point it's futile.  Jason Motte will be back but won't be ready to even compete for the closer role until July.   Motte had the surgery in May of 2013 which means he may not touch a baseball diamond during a real game until late April/early May.  He will find his control and slowly develop back into that stopper we knew from 2011 and 2012.  He will set up until the Cards really deem it necessary to switch him and Rosenthal.  If Trevor is throwing gas and closing everything, it won't happen unless Motte is electric.  I do think Motte gets back to the closer role sometime, but too late for Rosenthal to switch back to starting.  Motte makes 6 million this year but needs to get healthy.   Rosenthal may say he would like to start but watching him close in October I see a man empowered and having a lot of fun.  Let's not believe he is wanting to truly move just yet ladies and gents.  

There I go too. Wow.  Just like Shoptaw.  HA!  Must be a Daniel thing.  

Waino, Wacha, Garcia, Miller and Martinez for me in early April.  

Chris Mallonee - Bird On The Bat 82

If we are answering "who we would want" instead of "who do we think it will be", then I will go with Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Miller, Lynn as the Opening Day Starters.

Lynn had a nice turn-around in September and deserves a spot in the opening 2014 rotation in my opinion.

I would keep Kelly, Maness, Siegrist, and Rosenthal in the big-league bullpen as they were such vital pieces in 2013, and Kelly moves into that long-relief role to keep innings load off Wacha and a security net as Garcia gets back up to health. He is also the first inserted into the rotation when the inevitable injury occurs.

Gast, Lyons, and Martinez could start in the Memphis rotation. I don't think that would be a waste of Martinez as he is still so very young and needs to harness his power stuff and learn to go deeper into games. IF Gast is healthy near the start of the season, the Cardinals have three pretty good options for when a starter gets injured, and if 2014 follows the pattern of other years all of these guys will be called on at some point.

Matt Whitener, Cheap Seats Please 

Wainwright, Miller and Wacha are the locks, so I won't waste time discussing them and why.

Maness, Gast, Lyons and Rosenthal aren't in the convo, for various reasons.

I also don't want to delve too deep into what hasn't happened yet, such as trades and situations like that. Basically, what it comes down to is Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia and Carlos Martinez in a four-corners match, albeit one that is not that difficult to sort out.

Martinez has the best arm of the group (and maybe the entire team). With the said, I'd like to see him in a year like Rosenthal, at the end of the pen in some capacity. Motte's status is uncertain and both Axford and Mujica are gone. Bottomline, the back end of the bullpen is questionable, and bringing Martinez along there would be a perfect way for him to gain some Big League experience and expand his repertoire.

Garcia is purely a starter, and a much needed left-handed one at that, so he's in there too from the moment he's ready. All indications say that's spring training as of now, so that brings the rotation to a four-man group.

For the final spot, I opt with Lance Lynn. He's not always the popular choice, and surely isn't the most consistent of the group, however, there are a lot of things that work in his favor. He's still young, is steadily racking up experienced innings and still has a great skills package that can develop. He would be as good of a fourth/fifth starter that any team in the NL would have on their side.

So, if the Cardinals can break camp (for the first time since 2010) with a completely healthy rotation, I'd like to see a Wainwright, Miller, Garcia, Wacha, Lynn (in that order) mix take to the mound.

Nick Waeltz - Pitchers Hit Eighth

Who I would want: Wainwright, Wacha, Miller, Garcia, Martinez

Who I think it will be: Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Martinez, Kelly

<Strauss'd> intrigue... </Strauss'd>

Josh Gilliam, Pitchers Hit Eighth
I've given this way more thought than I should, and the trio at the back-end keeps changing by the hour. Most of us know it really doesn't matter who starts the season in the rotation, however, the changing of the guard could be 2014.

I'm sticking with Wainwright and Garcia to anchor the veteran portion of the starting five and then throwing darts after Wacha. The job Kelly did down the stretch while still adjusting to various roles gives him the nod as possibly the best #5 starter in the National League. That leaves a toss-up for the 3-4 spot between Miller and Lynn, both who could be former Cardinals as Nick pointed out.

My head says Lynn should be traded, but my heart wonders if the Miller/Kelly show may be coming to an end. Maybe a coin flip will solve it, but I hope the only uniform Shelby wears is the BOB for many years to come.

Finally, my thoughts

The Cardinals have an abundance of riches with a stockpile of young arms to choose from for their starting rotation.  The only locks I see for the 2014 rotation are Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.  
Jaime Garcia should grab the 4th slot, but only if he proves to be healthy, which, when dealing with shoulder injuries, particularly labrum tears, is never a sure thing.
Lance Lynn will probably end up getting traded as part of a package for a shortstop, as he is in desperate need of a change in scenery.
That leaves Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez to battle it out for the 5th spot.  Kelly will probably be wondering what he has to do to prove he is a major league starter, especially after going 13-9 with a 3.03 ERA in 31 starts over the last two seasons.  However, just like Shelby Miller did this spring, I see Martinez beating Kelly out for the last spot, leaving Kelly to return to his long relief role.

John Gast and Tyler Lyons will return to Memphis to provide depth and Seth Maness will return to the bullpen.
Trevor Rosenthal will start the season as the Cardinals closer and never look back, even when Jason Motte returns.  After his dominant display at the end of the season and in the postseason, I just don't see him relinquishing the closer role.
Overall, its a good problem to have and one that will take the Cardinals some time to sort out both during the offseason and next spring.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cardinals put Lance Lynn and/or Shelby Miller on the block? Who might they get in return?

The Hot Stove league has barely begun and already the Cardinals have created a stir by allegedly placing Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller on the block in their quest for a shortstop. 

According to Joe Strauss, the Cardinals may want to make room for either Carlos Martinez or Trevor Rosenthal in the starting rotation and trading either Lynn or Miller will free up a spot for one of those two while also addressing their other area of need (i.e. shortstop).

The only question is what shortstop is available that the Cardinals could go after?

Here are some possibilities:

Texas:  Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar

There was much discussion around the July trade deadline of a Oscar Taveras for Jurickson Profar trade.  Both are top prospects for their respective teams, but it seemed unlikely that either would be moved.  But might Texas be tempted to move Profar if Shelby Miller was the bait?

As for Andrus, Texas just signed him to a 8-year, $120 million extension back in April, which locks him up through 2023, although he can opt out after the 2018 or 2019 seasons.  Its hard to see the Rangers trading him so soon after the extension, but the contract only contains a limited no-trade clause, in which he can only block trades to 10 teams beginning in 2016, so it is not out of the question.

The Rangers could move Andrus to make room for Profar at short and, if so, a trade involving Lynn for Andrus might make sense.

Arizona:  Didi Gregorius/Chris Owings

Like the Rangers, the Diamondbacks have two quality shortstops and only once place to put them.  Owings probably has the higher offensive upside, while Gregorius is generally considered the better defender.

On the surface, Gregorius had a decent rookie season, hitting .252/.332/.373 with a 94 OPS+, however it was really a tale of two halves.  Gregorius had a .744 OPS in the first half of the season, but only .628 in the second half, which was only a bit higher than Pete Kozma's .548 OPS for the year.

Owings hit .330/.359/.482 in AAA Reno this year (granted, it was the offensive minded PCL) and is a career .291/.320/.441 hitter in the minors.  He hit .291 in 55 at bats with Arizona and looks to be major league ready.

I would not give up Shelby Miller for either of these two and would probably only give up Lynn for Owings, as Gregorius does not seem to be much of an upgrade.

Colorado:  Troy Tulowitzki

Another rumor that has been floating around a while is the Cardinals making a play for the Rockies Tulowitzki.  While he is certainly an excellent hitter, with a career line of .295/.367/.509 and an above average defender, there are some concerns as well.

For one, he is owed $134 million over the next 7 years, including a $4 million buyout for 2021.  While the Cardinals have some payroll flexibility, I'm not sure they want to commit that much to one player.

In addition, Tulo has been injury prone, especially the last two years, in which he only played 47 games in 2012 and 121 in 2013.  For his career, he's only averaged 120 games per season.

Finally, to get a guy like Tolowitzki, the Cardinals would like have to give up Miller and then some, which might be too steep a price.

Chicago Cubs:  Starlin Castro/Junior Lake

The Cubs may be getting fed up with Castro, who, after signing a 7-year, $60 million extension in August 2012, proceeded to go out and have the worst year of his career in 2013, hitting just .245 with a .631 OPS. 

The Cubs could decide to sell low on Castro and move Lake, a converted shortstop, back to short for one season, until uber-prospect Javier Baez is ready to take over the reigns.

Despite his 2013 troubles, Castro is still talented and would be an upgrade over Kozma, at least offensively, and might just need a change of scenery.

Still, I wouldn't give up any more than Lynn for him.

Overall, there are some good options out there, as well as some I may have overlooked (such as J.J. Hardy/Manny Machado in Baltimore or Asdrubal Cabrera/Francisco Lindor in Cleveland), but, as with most up-the-middle guys, the price could end up being higher than the Cardinals are willing to pay.

In any case, its something to keep an eye on as the Hot Stove heats up.