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2014 St. Louis Cardinals - Offseason Overview

Subtractions: David Freese (traded), Carlos Beltran (Free Agent), Edward Mujica (Free Agent), Chris Carpenter (Retired), Rafael Furcal (Free Agent), John Axford (non-tendered)

Additions: Peter Bourjos (via Trade), Jhonny Peralta (Free Agent), Mark Ellis (Free Agent)

By Johnmaxmena2 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last season's National League pennant winners wasted no time this offseason to improve... yes, I said improve from their 97-win season.  Coming into this offseason, the Cardinals knew they had to do something about the shortstop position.  In 2013, the Cardinals shortstops, led by Pete Kozma, posted a .222/.280/.303 slash line which was statistically one of the worst seasons for the Cardinals in the past 25 years.  With Kozma, who is known more for defense-- although I will digress and say that he cracks under playoff pressure-- the Cardinals knew they had to make a move either by trade or free agency at shortstop.  Rumors spread about who they would acquire, and after assessing the market, the Cardinals made the wise choice of signing the best free agent SS in Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $52M deal.  Peralta, who was suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs, had a 303/.358/.457 slash line, will be a huge upgrade for the Cardinals this season.  There are questions about Peralta's defense, but the Cardinals will wisely use Kozma and Mark Ellis as defensive replacements in the later innings of close games.  The beauty of this move by the Cardinals is that they lose no younger players (via trade) and they hold on to all their draft picks by avoiding free agents whose former teams made qualifying offers.

With the biggest issue resolved, the Cardinals looked to shore up center field.  Last season Jon Jay, who was the starter, had his worst season both defensively and offensively.  Jay slashed .276/.351/.370 which was a career-low, but still managed to post a 1.5 WAR (wins above replacement).  As the Cardinals were looking to improve their team they found a trade partner with the LA Angels and dealt David Freese, the 2011 postseason hero for the Cardinals, for Peter Bourjos and prospects.  Bourjos, who has battled injuries throughout his career, is known to be a defensive master in center field.  It is expected, if healthy, that Bourjos will be the starting CF this season and rotate with Jay.  With the trade of Freese, the Cardinals commit to moving Matt Carpenter, who was the starting 2B last season, to 3B.  The good news is that third is Carpenter's natural position, so the transition should be a smooth one.

That brings me to the next move the Cardinals made this offseason, signing infielder Mark Ellis to a one-year, $5.25M deal. Kolten Wong will most likely start at 2B, but Ellis brings insurance just in case Wong does not produce up to expectations.  At minimum, Ellis brings to the clubhouse a solid glove and veteran presence that will help the team.  Last season, he put up three WAR, and has never posted a season where his WAR was negative.  I expect that the Cards will use Ellis a middle infielder who will play both SS and 2B throughout the season.
All other personnel losses will be replaced by 'home-grown' players, which will make the Cardinals as a team much younger than last season.  While the loss of Beltran and Freese will be felt offensively, especially in terms of power production, the Cardinals will make up for their play with an improved defense and a pitching staff stocked with high-end talent.  One concern is that there will be quite few players who open the season with the club that have little major league experience and that they will need more outfield depth-- Chambers and Robinson will not be sufficient, and I for one would prefer to have an experienced veteran instead.  All things considered, I expect that the Cardinals to win the NL Central, to be a favorite to repeat for the NL pennant and possibly claim the World Series this year.
Remaining concerns about the Cardinals in 2014: Experience (a lot of young players); experienced veteran OF bench players; the starting roster has players with significant injury history (Craig, Bourjos); a lack of power hitters.


2014 St. Louis Cardinals - Fantasy Baseball Impact

Overall Offseason grade: A-

Players To Draft: Molina, Carpenter, Wainwright, Wacha, Holliday, Craig, S Miller, Rosenthal, Motte

Deep Leagues/Dynasty: Wong, Taveras, Lynn, C. Martinez