With the Cardinals having stripped some of the top layers of their farm system last year to acquire Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa, chairman Bill DeWitt Jr., while very high on his current club, acknowledges that the farm system needs to be refurbished as quickly as possible.
"We've given up a lot of young players and elevated players, so our system has been depleted," DeWitt said. "We brag about it when the rating is high. When it's low, we should acknowledge that we've taken a hit. This is a year for us to restore that as well."
DeWitt said the club, whose big-league payroll will be somewhat over $90 million, was likely to spend more heavily in this year's amateur draft after paying above slot to last year's first-round pick, high school pitcher Shelby Miller.
"We're going to spend a bunch of money in the draft," DeWitt said. "We have two extra picks (for losing DeRosa to the Giants and Joel Pineiro to the Angels). That's great, but it's costly, too.
"The system needs to be replenished. We knew this when we traded for the players we did. We were pretty solid with young players like (Adam) Wainwright and (Yadier) Molina. Some of the kids, (Colby) Rasmus and (Brendan) Ryan, have a year under their belt. We don't have those questions. It's more what the next level of kids will turn out to be."
The Cardinals are likely to have
several products from 2009 Pacific Coast League champion
--The Cardinals sent Ben Jukich, a left-handed pitcher who was a Rule 5 draftee, back to the Reds. Jukich, who didn't fit into the Cardinals' plans as a reliever, pitched in just one game.
--OF Matt Holliday, though he had been out nearly two weeks with a right ribcage strain, said a week was all he needed to be ready for the start of the regular season. "As long as I have a week of games, I can't imagine (not being ready for opening day), unless I have a huge setback," he said.
--RH reliever Fernando Salas, who appeared mostly at Class AAA Memphis last season, had appeared in more games than any other Cardinals pitcher and had stayed around longer than most non-roster pitchers because of his effective work. He had fanned nine and walked one through 7 1/3 innings.
"Do you know why those guys get a chance to pitch?" pitching coach Dave Duncan asked. "Because they get people out. When you get people out, if the opportunity is there and there's a choice to be made, the guy who is going to be chosen is going to be the guy who is getting the results."
--RHP Josh Kinney was out from "A" game competition for nearly two weeks because of irritation in his right shoulder. His chances of making the club were compromised, but manager Tony La Russa said, "We just want him to be healthy."
--Despite missing the first six games of the exhibition season with a quadriceps strain, OF/1B Allen Craig led the club with six extra-base hits through March 19. Craig batted .322 with 26 homers for Class AAA Memphis last year, and manager Tony La Russa said "(Craig) could hit his way onto this thing."
BY THE NUMBERS: 211 -- Managerial wins Tony La Russa needs to catch John McGraw for No. 2 on the all-time list.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not trading him. Period." -- GM John Mozeliak on completely unfounded rumors that the Phillies were considering a Ryan Howard-Albert Pujols trade with the Cardinals.
After winning their first division title in three seasons, the Cardinals really had only one real offseason mission -- to re-sign LF Matt Holliday. This they did at a cost of $120 million for seven years. Their only other player-personnel move of consequence was to sign RHP Brad Penny to replace departed RHP Joel Pineiro in the rotation. They also made one prominent coaching change, hiring former slugger Mark McGwire to replace Hal McRae as the hitting coach.
ARRIVALS: RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Giants), LHP Rich Hill (minor league free agent from Orioles), INF Ruben Gotay (minor league free agent from Diamondbacks), INF Felipe Lopez (free agent from Brewers).
DEPARTURES: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Joe Thurston (free agent, signed minor league deal with Braves), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent, signed with Braves), INF Mark DeRosa (free agent, signed with Giants), INF Khalil Greene (free agent, signed with Rangers), OF Rick Ankiel (free agent, signed with Royals), RHP Joel Pineiro (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Todd Wellemeyer (free agent, signed minor league deal with Giants), RHP John Smoltz (free agent, unsigned).
1. RHP Chris Carpenter
2. RHP Adam Wainwright
3. RHP Kyle Lohse
4. RHP Brad Penny
5. RHP Kyle McClellan, LHP Rich Hill or LHP Jaime Garcia
Penny, a free agent acquisition, replaces RHP Joel Pineiro, a 15-game winner who signed with the Angels. RHP Todd Wellemeyer had the most starts from the fifth spot last year, but he wasn't re-signed, so Hill, Garcia and perhaps RHP Kyle McClellan will contend for the fifth spot. No Cardinals lefty started a game last year, as Cy Young Award candidates Carpenter and Wainwright led an often-dominant, all-right-handed rotation.
RHP Ryan Franklin (closer)
RHP Jason Motte
RHP Kyle McClellan
RHP Blake Hawksworth
RHP Mitchell Boggs
LHP Trever Miller
LHP Dennys Reyes
1. 2B Skip Schumaker
2. CF Colby Rasmus
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. LF Matt Holliday
5. RF Ryan Ludwick
6. C Yadier Molina
7. 3B David Freese
8. SS Brendan Ryan
The key lineup question for manager Tony La Russa is the No. 2 spot. Does he go for "damage," as he likes to put it, with CF Colby Rasmus, knowing that Rasmus, one of his best base stealers, isn't apt to run much in front of Pujols? Or does he go at Nos. 1-2 with Schumaker and Ryan, neither of whom hits for much power nor walks much, in front of Pujols and Holliday?
INF/OF Joe Mather
INF Felipe Lopez
OF Allen Craig
The late-February signing of Lopez added some experience to the bench.
Craig, who batted .322 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs at Class AAA Memphis, is an intriguing rookie. The 25-year-old was signed as an infielder but has been moved to the outfield, where he is not an accomplished defender. Still, next to the batter's box, the outfield appears to be his best position. Mather, a valuable extra man in 2008, had a terrible season (.176 at Class AAA Memphis and .209 at Class AA Springfield) in 2009 as he had continued trouble with a left hand on which he had surgery in 2008.
--SS Brendan Ryan (right wrist surgery in February 2010) should be ready for the start of the regular season.
--LF Matt Holliday (sore right rib cage) has been sidelined for two weeks in March. He remains day-to-day.
--RHP Josh Kinney (right shoulder impingement) was sidelined in mid-March after having two cortisone shots.