Offseason Outlook: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are next in our Offseason Outlook series.  Their likely commitments for 2010:

C – Yadier Molina – $4.25MM
C – Matt Pagnozzi – $400K
1B – Albert Pujols – $16MM
2B – Skip Schumaker – $430K+
SS – Brendan Ryan – $405K
3B – David Freese – $400K
IF – Julio Lugo – $400K
IF – Tyler Greene – $400K
IF/OF – Joe Thurston – $475K
LF –
CF – Colby Rasmus – $400K
RF – Ryan Ludwick – $3.7MM+
OF – Allen Craig – $400K

SP – Chris Carpenter – $14.5MM
SP – Adam Wainwright – $4.65MM
SP – Kyle Lohse – $8.875MM
SP – Jaime Garcia – $400K
SP – Mitchell Boggs – $400K

RP – Ryan Franklin – $3.25MM
RP – Trever Miller – $2MM
RP – Dennys Reyes – $2MM
RP – Kyle McClellan – $410K
RP – Josh Kinney – $405K
RP – Jason Motte – $400K
RP – Blake Hawksworth – $400K

That comes to about $65MM before arbitration raises to Ludwick and Schumaker.  So we'll put the Cardinals around $70MM committed.  The Cardinals entered the season at $88.5MM, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.  GM John Mozeliak could have close to $20MM to spend this winter.

Clearly the Cardinals' offseason hinges on Matt Holliday.  If Holliday is signed even to a backloaded contract, it seems that Mozeliak won't be able to do much with the third base and rotation needs.  Holliday figures to cost $16-20MM annually for at least five years.  Re-signing John Smoltz might allow for the best of both worlds – a chance at 150 innings of above-average pitching without breaking the bank.  Presumably Holliday and Smoltz could both be squeezed in.

Should Holliday sign elsewhere or the Cardinals decide to move on, there are plenty of free agents to suit their needs.  The Cards can move on to the next best thing in Jason Bay, and probably end up with more spending money for other players.  It will be difficult to entirely avoid Scott Boras this winter, because Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady might become options as Mozeliak moves down the left fielder list.

Also, Boras client Adrian Beltre is an intriguing third base option if the Cardinals prefer not to splurge on Chone FigginsMark DeRosa and Miguel Tejada are a bit older but would be solid one-year choices.  Dan Uggla, Kevin KouzmanoffJosh Willingham, and David DeJesus could be trade considerations at third and left.

If Holliday departs, the Cardinals can up the ante on the rotation and take a look at Randy Wolf or Joel Pineiro.  Mozeliak recently told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the club may consider a rotation upgrade if they don't ink Holliday, but signing John Lackey is unlikely.

Which route do you prefer for the Cardinals this winter – sign Holliday and tinker elsewhere, or spread the money around to three or more solid veterans?

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