Cardinals off-season to-do list:
- Address the Carlos Beltran situation: The Redbirds' relationship has been mutually beneficial. Beltran, who struggled to stay on the field in 2010 and 2011, has been very steady for the Cardinals. He's consistently been productive on the field and has been a leader and a good example to the club's young players off it. Some think the Cardinals can replace Beltran's production with Matt Adams and top prospect Oscar Taveras. But Adams was over-exposed in the post season when Allen Craig was injured and Taveras is a question mark at the MLB level because of his health and inexperience. Bel tran, who wants to make a bid for the Hall of Fame, wants to be an everyday player. So he may have the American League on his mind. But I think it's a no-brainer for the Birds to at least make a tender offer to keep Beltran around for another season -- or get a draft pick if he signs with another contender. Beltran finally made it to the World Series with St. Louis in 2013. Maybe a one-year reunion can get him a ring. Since Beltran has already made a ton of money, he doesn't need a long term deal. And if he wants he could move on after 2014 in he accepts the one-year deal to go someplace where he can DH. If Beltran leaves, the Cardinals need an impact right handed bat.
- Address the shortstop situation: Pete Kozma hit well enough to stick in the starting lineup in the first half of the season. But he faded badly in the second half. The Cardinals really need to find a player who can be a bigger contributor to the offense while still handling the ball on defense. While I'd sure love to see the club find a franchise shortstop on the trade market, I'm not sure that's a possibility without giving up too much financially or too much talent. If Rafael Furcal is healthy the Cardinals might be wise to sign him to a one-year deal to see if he can re-establish himself. I think a $1 million contract with another $1 million per plate appearance might be in order. Furcal could shoot to play 120 games and potentially make $5 million if he's a frequent starter. If he goes bust, the team wouldn't be on the hook for too much.
- Figure out how to re-allocate the saved payroll money: The Cardinals don't have many needs with a huge stable of young, promising pitchers who are under team control for years to come. But they ought to have a nice chunk of change to spend filling holes because of the expiration of the contracts of Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Furcal and potentially Beltran. That's about $40 million before you factor raises for Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and others. Still, the Cardinals, after paying raises to arbitration eligible players and guys under contract ought to have more than $25 million to throw around. If Beltran accepts a $14 million tender offer, they'll still have the bucks for a significant upgrade a shortstop.
The popular choice would be expensive Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki who has a great glove and the power of a corner infielder. But the Rockies have been playing hard to get with Tulo and, while the Cardinals could make an offer Colorado couldn't refuse. But they shouldn't.
As far as I am concerned Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Taveras are untouchable. The Cardinals can compete with what they have right now and their young talent is only going to get better. So it makes no sense for the club to pull the rug out from under itself. However there are several trading chips the Redbirds could shed without damaging themselves. Adams, Wong, Lance Lynn, and potentially Shelby Miller -- who impressed in the first half of the season but somehow fell out of the Cardinals' plans in the post season, much to his annoyance -- could be available.
There was a lot of talk last spring about the Cardinals and Texas Rangers potentially making a deal for young shortstop Jurickson Profar. But maybe their veteran shortstop, Elvis Andrus, is more attainable that it seemed he was when he signed a contract last season reported to be worth $120 million over eight years.
In reality, the contract could be worth $66.5 million over five years, however. It contains two opt out clauses in 2018 and 2019 which make it likely the young Andrus would opt out in favor of an extension. The deal pays $6.5 million in 2014 -- which is half a million bucks less than the Redbirds paid Rafael Furcal in 2013 to do nothing. Subtract Furcal's contract and Motte's $7 million and you've nearly covered Andrus' $15 million annual paycheck from 2015-18.
Andrus would offer the Cardinals dynamic offensive production at a spot that was an offensive black hole last year. And, with 42 stolen bases in 50 tries last year, he'd offer the Redbirds an element of speed they haven't had in years.
Tulowitzki would be the dream addition. But Andrus would be much cheaper than him or Jose Reyes. Unfortunately, $15 million a year for a shortstop who will be 25-29 years old during the term of the contract, seems like the going rate for a high-end player.