ST. LOUIS (Baseball StL) -- The 2012 season has come and gone and that means it’s time for offseason upgrades. To be frank, there’s not a whole lot that needs to be fixed with this Cardinals club. Sure, it snuck into the playoffs once again with 88 wins. But once in, it showed - again - that it’s got what it takes to win big games and advance.
I’d expect a very similar 25-man roster with just a few spots changing over. It’s painfully obvious Lance Berkman and Kyle Lohse won’t be back. Skip Schumaker could be the victim of an attempt to upgrade the thump on the bench. Fernando Salas could be the victim of the emergence of young guns like Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller.
But from a core standpoint, just about all of it is going to return.
So what will - should - GM John Mozeliak’s to-do list be this winter? It’ll partially be about upgrades. But it’ll also be about locking up core players for the long term.
Here are the two items, non upgrade related, that it would make sense for the team to think about this winter.
Sign Adam Wainwright to an extension
This is the most important thing Mo has to do in the offseason. Think about it. Chris Carpenter will be 38 for most of next season and is officially going year-to-year with the club. Jake Westbrook is only guaranteed one more season. And there’s a boat load of young pitchers emerging from this system (Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Michael Waccha).
Projecting this rotation three or even five years down the road, there’s going to be a ton of youth. And youth is good, considering their cost effectiveness and lack of mileage on their arms. But where there’s youth, there needs to be a veteran leader. Or someone to offset the inexperience.
That’s where Wainwright comes in. He’s just 31 and has several more years left in that 6’7”, 228 pound body. His career 3.15 ERA is nearly as impressive as his 908 strikeouts. There’s just one issue. He is entering the final year of his contract in 2013 and is due an enormous raise.
With Lohse, Berkman and others coming off the books...signing Wainwright for the next four, five or six years would be a wise move.
Lock up David Freese
The Cardinals have followed a similar pattern for much of the last decade. Develop, promote and lock up upon reaching arbitration. See, you normally reach free agency after year six. Well, the Cards don’t need six years to decide someone is worth signing long term. So after their third season, they usually ink players for six or so more years. That takes them well past when they would normally hit free agency and guarantees the Redbirds have control over them for their prime seasons. Then when they’re, say, 30 or 31 the front office decides whether they’re worth signing to yet another contract.
They did that with Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, etc.
Now, it’s David Freese’s turn. He’ll be eligible for arbitration and is squarely at the point in his career where the Cards would normally sign them to an extension. After finally staying healthy this season Freese has finally proven that he can be on the field and not get hurt. His production speaks for itself (.296 career average in 1105 at-bats) and he’s a core member of that clubhouse.
With what he’s done and with what you’d reasonably believe he’ll continue to do, I’d be surprised if the Cardinals don’t approach him about an extension this winter.