With about $80 million committed to some nine players for next season and with the Cardinals' payroll likely to rise only about 10 percent to $105 million, the club will have to be careful how it spends its offseason money. It may be that the Cardinals will be in the trade market as much as the free agent market.
From a free agent standpoint, the Cardinals' biggest initial target still was right-hander Jake Westbrook, who was impressive for them in the final two months last season. Failing to re-sign Westbrook for two or three years, they probably will delve further into the free agent market to get a starter to complete a five-man rotation that includes right-handers Adam Wainwright. Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse and left-hander Jaime Garcia.
The Cardinals also are looking to upgrade offensively at shortstop and second base and perhaps even third base, although they are counting on David Freese, coming off surgery on both ankles, to be ready next spring.
General manager John Mozeliak may be plying the trade angle on improving his infield offense, although there are different sentiments in the organization as to whether the club should turn away from second baseman Skip Schumaker, whose batting average tailed off significantly to .265 after three straight seasons at .300 or above.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--C Matt Pagnozzi was outrighted
to Class AAA Memphis, even though the Cardinals won eight of the last nine games
he started. He hit .359 in 15 games for
--Hitting coach Mark McGwire, back for a second year, is hopeful some of the Cardinals' younger hitters will lessen their reliance on the video room. "Especially during the game," McGwire said. "When you're constantly going back and forth looking at what you swung at, the majority of the time you're reinforcing negative thoughts. There is only one way and one place to reinforce something -- watching from the dugout and playing."
--RHP Jordan Swagerty, a reliever who was a second-round draft choice this year, ended his Arizona Fall League season early because of an oblique strain. The injury isn't considered serious.
--C Yadier Molina won his third consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove award, and 1B Albert Pujols was voted his second. Molina was a unanimous choice in the Fielding Bible's vote for the NL's top catcher. Pujols won his other Gold Glove in 2006. He also was awarded his sixth Silver Slugger Award, his third in a row.
--LF Matt Holliday earned an NL Silver Slugger Award for the fourth time in five years. He batted .312 with 28 homers and 103 RBI this year.
--RHP Chris Carpenter was honored by the Arizona Fall League as the 26th member of that league's Hall of Fame. Carpenter pitched in the AFL when he was in the Blue Jays' farm system.
--1B Albert Pujols went to the Dominican Republic on a relief mission for his Pujols Foundation, conducting a baseball clinic with a youth league that he's helped established.
By the Numbers:
3 - Cardinals catchers who have won three Gold Gloves -- Tom Pagnozzi, Mike Matheny and now Yadier Molina.
Quote to Note:
"You can't find feeling in the video room."
- Hitting coach Mark McGwire, on hitters spending too much time in the video room, relative to trusting their own eyes and judgments.
The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. But the supporting cast must be upgraded.
BIGGEST NEEDS: At the top of the Cardinals' wish list should be a contract extension for 1B Albert Pujols, but general manager John Mozeliak said there were other priorities. Presumably, they are to get another starting pitcher (possibly by retaining RHP Jake Westbrook) and an infielder or two with pop and the ability to play at least adequate defense. The Cardinals also are looking for another power bat in the outfield, but that could be top prospect Allen Craig, who finished the season in the majors.
It is possible that none of them will be brought back, although Westbrook, impressive in two months with the Cardinals, is at the top of the list.
Ryan, coming off a .223 season, shouldn't command too much money, although he is a Gold Glove candidate. McClellan is one of the best middle relievers in the game.
IN LIMBO: 2B Skip Schumaker could be part of a deal if the Cardinals don't consider him as a regular. He will make $2.7 million in 2011. One of the Cardinals' strengths is right-handed relief, where Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan are all young and relatively inexpensive. Any of them could go in the right deal.
3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be ready for spring training.
C Jason LaRue (concussion) missed the rest of the season after he was kicked in the head by Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto during an August brawl. He said he would retire.
LHP Jaime Garcia (left arm fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina (right knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are expected to be ready for spring training.
RHP Brad Penny (strained upper back) went on the disabled list May 22, and he missed the remainder of the season.