(BaseballStL) – The chase for the NL Central is rounding the final turn, and one division manager has picked his horse.
According to the Associated Press, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke put his money on the Redbirds as Central champs (not literally of course).
“Probably the most well-rounded team,” he said after the game Tuesday. Roenicke added that he believed the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals would be NL Central contenders well into the future.
“That’s a tough thing for us,” he said. “You don’t have all these veterans who are going to be free agents and they’re going to be losing all these guys.”
Many of the Cardinals players that have left or were set to leave have have not contributed to the 2013 campaign (Boggs, Rzcepcynski, Furcal, Wigginton).
There are remaining question marks to be dealt with, though each seems to offer the Cardinals more options than problems. Edward Mujica avoided arbitration last season and following a tremendous season will command major money in his newfound role as a closer. With Rosenthal and Motte on the roster, the team isn’t beholden to him as the only late inning option.
It would be unlikely he would take less than he’s worth on the market and the Cardinals probably wouldn’t make him a qualifying offer, but if the price is right, the Cards could have a devastating late-inning staff. If not, there is more money on the books for St. Louis and a closer with 42 saves in 2012 returning in Motte.
Carlos Beltran, though he has had an All-Star season, is going to command millions and more than likely will want a multi-year deal. What happens there is anyone’s guess, but option A is the Cardinals save a sizeable chunk of money and bring up their prized AAA outfielder Oscar Taveras. Option B would be the team spends on Beltran and gets an All-Star veteran to mentor Taveras and hopefully continue to contribute at a high level.
St. Louis hero Chris Carpenter is up in the air, but the cadre of rookie pitching has made his potential return a bonus and not a necessity.
David Freese is arbitration eligible, but as complex as that situation is, the outcome is either (a hopefully resurgent) Freese back at third, or Matt Carpenter playing back at his natural position.
Roenicke was not kidding when he said the NL Central wasn’t getting any kinder. It also looks like it isn’t getting any less entertaining. The Cardinals open 2014 with three games at Cincinnati, three against the Pirates and three more against Cincy in St. Louis.
“Might as well just jump into it right?” chuckled Cardinals manager Mike Matheny Tuesday. “I think that’s probably by design.”