The St. Louis Cardinals followed their 2011 World Series victory with another postseason run in 2012. The Redbirds came up a bit short as their bats went silent in the final three games of the NLCS against the Giants. Entering 2013, GM Walt Mozeliak kept with the theme of building primarily from within as he made no major free agent signings or trades. The Cardinal’s major additions may come from prospects already in their highly rated farm system.
There was one major piece of bad news for the St. Louis Cardinals entering spring training. In February it was reported that starting pitcher Chris Carpenter would most likely miss the entire season due to a recurrence of a nerve injury. The 2005 Cy Young winner’s career is in jeopardy due to the severity of the injury.
Many of the Cardinal’s signings were designed to avoid arbitration. David Freese is a key offensive contributor and was the hero of the 2011 postseason. The solid third baseman hit 20 HR and drove in 79 runs in 2012. He was re-signed to a $3.15 million one year deal to avoid arbitration.
The Cardinals prioritized their bullpen this offseason. Closer Jason Motte was re-signed to a $12 million two year deal. After breaking onto the scene in the 2011 postseason, Motte continued his success in the 2012 season. He saved 42 games with a 2.75 ERA and a .191 batting average against. He is one of the elite closers in the National League.
Key bullpen arms Edward Mujica ($3.2 million one year) and Mitchell Boggs ($1.5 million one year) were re-signed. Mujica appeared in 70 games with a 3.03 ERA in 2012. Boggs, another important setup man, appeared in 78 games with a 2.21 ERA and a .212 BAA.
The major addition via free agency was a two year $5 million contract signed by longtime utility man Ty Wigginton. Wigginton has a lifetime batting line of .263 BA/.324 OBP/.438 SLG and had 11 HR in 315 AB in 2012. He can play every infield position except short and man a corner OF spot if needed.
Top 20 prospect Shelby Miller and another highly regarded youngster Trevor Rosenthal will be among the contestants for the role of fifth starter. Miller had 1.32 ERA in 14 IP while Rosenthal had a 2.78 ERA in 23 IP in 2012 for the Cardinals.
Oscar Taveras is the #3 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. He has a chance to join Matt Holliday and Jon Jay in the Cardinals outfield at some point in the 2013 season. Taveras tore up the Double A Texas League to the tune of .321 average/23 HR/94 RBI. Second base prospect Kolten Wong could force his way into Mike Matheny’s lineup at some point in 2013.
The St. Louis Cardinals are a model organization. They consistently develop pitching and positional players in their system and supplement those players with intelligent signings and trades. They made a seamless transition from Tony LaRussa to Mike Matheny in the 2012 season.
While their divisional rivals the Cincinnati Reds may have a slightly more talented team, the Cardinals always seem to be a factor come September. Though the losses Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse will hurt, there are a number of young arms poised to step in and contribute. Their solid lineup led by Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran is deep enough to score with most in the National League.
The Cardinal may not be favored to win the National League pennant, but they will be a factor at some point this fall. If they get contributions from their youngsters and their lineup staples produce as expected, the Cards have the ability to play with any team in baseball.