A glance at the potential free agent list for the 2014-15 off-season makes it obvious: The Cardinals are either going to have to make a trade for a shortstop or else develop one themselves.
The picking are slim. And the good players who are available are past 30 years old. So the Redbirds would find themselves likely overpaying for a player past his prime to try to fill their hole at the most important defensive spot on the infield.
Potentially available, with their age at that time in parenthesis: Asdrubal Cabrera (29), J.J. Hardy (32), Derek Jeter (41), Jed Lowrie (31) and Hanley Ramirez (31) could be unrestricted free agents. Mike Aviles (34), Yunel Escobar (32), Hiroyuki Nakajima (32), Nick Punto (37), and Jimmy Rollins (36) have team or vesting options.
Cabrera's production numbers have decreased every year since 2009. Hardy and Lowrie are unappealing if the Cardinals would have to dole out three years to sign them. Who knows what Ramirez, who seems destined to sooner rather than later make the move from shortstop to third base, would cost? Like this off-season's free agents, Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta, next season's class seems likely to be over-values because of a lack of supply.
It seems teams have almost universally bought into the concept of signing your own young players long before they reach free agency. Almost all of the impact players on the open market are guys on the downhill side of 30.
That fact underlines the need for the Cardinals to trade for a shortstop if they're going to make an improvement at the position. And it also shows why they must be careful in which young players they deal to get help. The currency of the 2010s is controllable, young players.