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After Holliday plans

Presuming the Cardinals can wrap up the Matt Holliday signing within the next few days, the obvious question is what's next?

The obstacle to getting the answer is knowing what the terms of the Holliday agreement will be -- not only the total amount, but also how the contract is structured.

With the clean-up spot in the batting order -- and left field -- filled by Holliday, the Cardinals' biggest concerns seem to be a lack of depth in the starting rotation and the uncertainty created at third base when prospect David Freese was tagged for allegedly driving under the influence.

The Redbirds have in-house candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation including Ben Jukish, Jaimie Garcia and Mitchell Boggs. And having a young and inexperienced fifth starter isn't bad when you have as much talent and experience in the top four spots in the rotation as St. Louis does with Cy Young candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, power pitcher Brad Penny and veteran righty Kyle Lohse. But all four of those guys have spent considerable time on the disabled list over the past two seasons. What happens if one or two of the big guns get hurt and the Birds are undermined by a weak starting crew?

John Smoltz remains a possibility. But he is believed to be asking for about $5 million to pitch in 2010. And that may be a tight squeeze if the Cardinals are on the hook for $18 million or more with Holliday next season.

The Birds were said to be looking at former MVP runner up Adrian Beltre a week or two ago to start at third base and add significant power to the lineup. But things have changed quite a bit since then. Low budget Oakland was the only team known to be in on Beltre at the time. Now the Red Sox are taking a good, hard look at him and that's driven his asking price back up to the $12-$15 million a season range.

Look for the Cardinals instead to replace super utilityman Mark DeRosa with Felipe Lopez if the price is right. Lopez could probably be had for about $2.5 million a season and he can play second, third, short in a pinch and left field.