|With only 6 days remaining until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, I can’t help but feel some enthusiasm for the upcoming season in St. Louis. The roster was oh so close last year to taking the Birds on the Bat back into the World Series even with Albert bolting for sunny California much to the chagrin of most of the fan base, and the injury bug rearing its ugly head. These Redbirds were knocking on the door, but fate wasn’t kind enough to answer as the Giants made an incredible comeback to once again win the World Series trophy for the National League.
GM John Mozeliak went into the offseason without having to negotiate a major contract, or really have to worry about filling any major holes. He tendered a one year offer to Kyle Lohse, but it was merely a formality to insure draft pick compensation should another team decide to sign Lohse to the long term deal he will be seeking this offseason. As expected, Lohse opted not to take it because he pitched so well last year that both he and his agent are looking for a multi-year, multi-million dollar offer sheet from another club. To date that hasn’t happened, but it’s not because of Lohse’s talent, or lack thereof. It has everything to do with the new rules put in place this season whereby the team that ultimately signs Lohse will have to forfeit some of their bonus purse used for signing draft picks. It’s certainly a tough situation for Lohse because I’m sure he had fully expected to be signed by now. Losing Lohse’s veteran stability is certainly difficult, but barring injury there is a logjam of starting pitching and not enough spots as it is. So, ultimately his loss won’t be as great as it may seem on the surface. By far the biggest need in the offseason from the pitching perspective was the addition of a veteran LH RP, and Mozeliak made a swift and credible signing by adding Randy Choate. On paper he appears to be just what the doctor ordered to cure what ailed the depth from the LH side last season.
As for the everyday roster, virtually every position is set headed into the season provided Furcal’s elbow is good to go. Mozeliak knew this, and has done next to nothing this offseason as a result. He made superficial depth signings with the addition of Ty Wigginton (bench bat depth) and Ronny Cedeno (SS/2B Depth) that I suspect left many fans wondering what the point even was in bringing them in. While those may seem like very underwhelming signings to the majority of the fan base, the truth is that someone needed to be brought in to give insurance for Furcal in the event he ends up missing time, and clearly Mozeliak didn’t want to overspend to satisfy the insurance need. In the end the Cardinals have extra money, and bullets to trade with their young starting pitching depth in the event that a more viable fill in is needed anywhere on the roster.
This season is going to be interesting to say the least, and there are a few questions I can’t wait to see answered:
Can Furcal, Garcia, Craig, Beltran, and Freese all stay healthy for the entire year?
Will Miller, Rosenthal, and Kelly continue to develop and continue to be valuable contributors to the club?
Which one of the 3 above will emerge and fill in the void left by Carpenter being declared out until further notice?
Will Rzepczynski stabilize now that Choate has been added?
Will Matheny show in game strategy improvements from lessons learned, and will he be able to buy some of the aging veterans enough time off to avoid injury going into his second year as manager?
Will Matt Carpenter get any time at 2nd base in an attempt to get his stick into the lineup more often?
Will either of the two well hyped potential Rookie prospects in Wong and Taveras emerge during Spring Training and force their way into the everyday lineup?
A team that was 1 game away from a return trip to the World Series is about to return to the diamond, and I for one can’t wait to watch this season unfold. Enjoy the ride, fellow Cardinals fans because I know I will.