Hot Stove Season: Where the Cardinals Stand on Free Agents and Arbitration-Eligibles


With the official end of the St. Louis Cardinals’ postseason campaign in 2014, the Hot Stove season has officially begun.

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There are five players eligible for free agency on the Cardinals’ 2014 roster: Jason Motte, Justin Masterson, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Ellis, and Pat Neshek.

Neshek, a bullpen surprise after signing a minor league deal, was named to this summer’s National League All-Star team and has likely pitched his way out of the Cardinals bullpen. It is always possible that the Cardinals could try and work out a deal with the reliever but chances are that he pitched his way out of the bullpen and onto another roster with an increase in payroll flexibility.

The fact that Masterson was left off of the postseason roster says everything following his performance since being acquired by the Cardinals in July. He pitched himself off the roster for much different reasons than Neshek.

Kolten Wong’s performance in 2014, despite some trips to Memphis, means that Ellis won’t be needed next season at all. His numbers this season (.249/.292/.388) appear misleading when one takes into account Wong’s performance in both the NLDS and NLCS.

Pierzynski was more of an insurance than anything given Yadier Molina being unavailable for several weeks in the second half. With Tony Cruz more than capable of handling the Cardinals pitching staff as Molina’s backup, there’s not really a reason to keep a third catcher around.

I don’t know what to think about Motte’s future. He missed all of 2013 with Tommy John Surgery and came back this season not really having a home as closer due to Trevor Rosenthal and the Cardinals have a stockpile of pitching arms. It’s really hard to predict whether an offer will be made to resign the former closer.

General Manager John Mozeliak is likely to meet with the staff to figure out the plan for the offseason. Fortunately, there won’t be the holes to fill as there was last season with shortstop and defense in center field. It seems doubtful on Mozeliak’s account that any qualifying offer will be made like they did last year with Carlos Beltran. I don’t think they are keen on paying Neshek close to $15 million to pitch one inning every few games.

As for the rotation, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller are all returning. Lackey has a team option for $500,000 during the 2015 season and will be a free agent after next season. The Cardinals are expected to pick up the option. One would think that Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez are going to pitch out of the bullpen. With Randy Choate signed through the end of the 2015 season, Gonzales will join him as a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. While he did struggle at times, Rosenthal is very much the closer next year. The reliever had 45 saves in 51 save opportunities–an 88% conversion.

Around the infield, nobody is going anywhere: Matt Adams, Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, and Molina will stay put next season. Carpenter, Peralta, and Molina have long-term deals. I would think that Adams gets locked up with a long-term deal during Spring Training. Adams’ first year of arbitration eligibility is in 2016.

Regarding the outfield, Matt Holliday is safe and Jon Jay is in his second year of arbitration eligibility. Neither are going anywhere. The question mark is in right field with possible starters in Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Peter Bourjos. Bourjos, like Jay, is also in his second season of eligibility.

First Season of Arbitration Eligibility:
Lance Lynn
Tony Cruz
Shane Robinson

Second Season of Arbitration Eligibility:
Peter Bourjos
Daniel Descalso
Jon Jay

With the number of outfielders in the mix, Robinson could find himself getting non-tendered. The same goes for Descalso.