Hopefully the Cardinals will be able to sign Adam Wainwright to a contract extension and their young pitchers will start to come through and develop into solid major leaguers.
But if they decide they want to add a veteran starter to the front end of the rotation, several guys they have been linked to over the years will be free agents at the end of the 2014 season.
Phillies starter Roy Halladay was rumored to be interested in pitching for the Cardinals when the Blue Jays shipped him off for prospects a few years back. But the Redbirds wouldn't pay the price and he ended up with Philadelphia where he tangled with his former teammate Chris Carpenter in one of the greatest playoff pitching duels of all time to decide the 2011 NLDS.
Halladay has a vesting option for $20 million if he pitches 225 innings in 2013. So it's not certain he'll hit the market. Halladay has eclipsed that mark in five of the last six seasons. But the one in which he didn't make it was the most recent one.
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Former Cardinals prospect Dan Haren, who was dealt to Oakland in the ill-fated Mark Mulder trade, is set to hit the market after the upcoming season.
Haren's on a $13-million, one-year deal after the Angels declined his option for the 2013 season. He's said publicly before that he'd love to come back to the Cardinals. And, if he's healthy, I'd love to see it.
Tim Hudson is another guy whose made no secret of his desire to pitch for the Cardinals. And he narrowly missed being shipped to St. Louis in the Haren deal. Instead, Atlanta out-bid the Birds for Hudson... And while we were busy in the River City being miffed about it, former General manager Walt Jocketty got Mulder on the rebound. Hudson's 38 and the oldest player in the group. But if he stays healthy he might be a guy who could be had in a short term deal for a reasonable price.
Josh Johnson has been the subject of trade rumors for two or three years. He finally was dealt by the Marlins to the Blue Jays in their Fire Sale of Shame. He's the spring chicken of this list at 30 when he hits the market. He could be an interesting fallback if the Birds can't land Wainwright with an extension. Personally, I'd like to have them both. And, with all the money the Cardinals could save by letting Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal's contracts expire, I think it is a reasonable goal.