12/04/09 12:00 AM EST
Dominoes could fall quickly for Cards
Offseason moves hinge on Holliday; fourth starter wanted
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Left field: More specifically, Matt Holliday. He's the top priority, and the guy who to some extent makes or breaks this offseason for the Cardinals. If Holliday re-signs, it becomes mostly a matter of minor tweaking for the rest of the offense. David Freese likely becomes the third baseman until and unless he proves he can't play there, and the Cardinals perhaps look to bolster their bench. If Holliday goes elsewhere, or simply takes too long and the Cardinals disengage, the team must then add a bat in the outfield and perhaps at third base as well.
Fourth starter: The top three starters are settled and under contract: Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. The fifth is likely to come from in-house, someone like Jaime Garcia or Mitchell Boggs. But a veteran No. 4 is the second item on the shopping list. John Smoltz retains some intrigue for the club, but he's far from the only option. The Cards would prefer to go short-term in any deal, and it remains a possibility that Joel Pineiro could accept arbitration.
Third base: As mentioned above, if Holliday signs, this likely is scratched off the list. But if Holliday goes elsewhere, an offensive upgrade has to come somewhere, and there are some interesting names available. Mark DeRosa has been offered arbitration and could return, and players such as Chone Figgins (who might carry a too-hefty price tag), Adrian Beltre and Miguel Tejada would be potential options as well.
Bench, bullpen: Both could use a little upgrade. Neither area, however, is anywhere near the top of the team's wish list. The Cardinals could use a little more pop off the bench with the expected departure of Rick Ankiel. And the bullpen could use an experienced setup man, though St. Louis has plenty of depth on both the right and left sides.
3B Freese and OF Allen Craig: One of these guys could well have a place in the 2010 lineup, but there's no way that both of them will. Holliday's return would probably take Freese off the table, but if the Cardinals signed lesser-priced veterans to play left and third, Freese could be available. Craig didn't receive a September callup after a huge season at Triple-A that made him the organization's Minor League Player of the Year, perhaps an indication that there aren't big plans for him.
SS Tyler Greene: The addition of Julio Lugo last year diminished the opportunities for Greene, who is a very exciting defender with a raw but intriguing bat.
C Bryan Anderson: Anderson's value surely took a huge hit with an injury-marred, subpar '09 campaign. Nonetheless, he's yet to turn 23. He has a history of hitting at just about every level, and it's clear he plays very little part in the Cardinals' future plans.
LHP Garcia, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Lance Lynn, OF Daryl Jones, OF Craig, 3B Freese, RHP Eduardo Sanchez: Having moved Brett Wallace in the Holliday deal, the Cards' best farmhands are pitchers, though Freese, whose 2009 season was hampered by injury, could break through if given a shot at third.
Big contracts they might unload: None. The Cardinals aren't currently paying anyone they don't want to pay.
Arbitration eligible: Ryan Ludwick, OF; Skip Schumaker, 2B
Non-tender candidates: None
Payroll summation: The Cardinals are committed to approximately $56 million in guaranteed payroll for 2010. Beyond that, salaries determined through the arbitration process could add another $8-9 million, and pre-arbitration-eligible players could add in the neighborhood of $4 million. That means that before they hit free agency, the Cardinals likely will be spending close to $70 million, leaving roughly $30 million that could be added.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.