ST. LOUIS (Baseball StL) -- It’d be easy to get down on the Cardinals after they let the NLCS slip away and look so awful doing it in the last three games. That team we saw in San Francisco, especially in game 7, didn’t look much like a championship team. The Cardinals couldn’t hit, pitch or catch the ball. Pretty hard to win if you don’t do any of those things.
Pete Kozma didn’t look like somebody you could count on to be the shortstop of the future after playing so well over the previous month. Kozma spent most of his time in the minors as a second baseman but came up to the majors and looked pretty slick at shortstop, at least until the NLCS rolled around. Rafael Furcal is signed for another year anyway, so the Cardinals might be hesitant to make a change at shortstop until after next season.
Is Daniel Descalso the long term answer at second base? Probably not. The Cardinals have a first round draft pick in Kolten Wong in the minors now, and he’s likely the guy they want to take over that position in the near future, possibly as early as next season. Descaclso has proven to be a valuable defensive player who can handle any spot on the infield, but he’ll have to hit more before the Cardinals give him the second base job on a full time basis.
The rest of the starting eight is still under contract or in Cardinals control. Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, David Freese, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran all figure to be back next year. Same goes for the starting pitchers with the exception of Kyle Lohse, who is now a free agent. Lohse has probably thrown his last pitch as a Cardinal. After his 16-3 regular season Lohse has no doubt priced his way off the roster. There are already rumors that the Yankees may make a big offer to Lohse as they try to shore up their starting pitching.
The Cardinals bullpen is also in good shape for next year. Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Trevor Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly will all be back. They could use a good lefty. Rosenthal, Miller and Kelly might all get a shot at earning Lohse’s spot in the starting rotation.
The place where the Cardinals need help will be on the bench. Matt Carpenter is a valuable guy who can play a lot of positions and carries a nice bat. Beyond that, there’s not much. It’d be hard to imagine the Cardinals are satisfied with Shane Robinson being their fourth outfielder. Or Adron Chambers. Look for the Cardinals to try to upgrade in that area. Skip Schumaker is still under contract, but after spending most of the final weeks of the season on the bench, Schumaker might be a guy the Cards use as trade bait. Tony Cruz is a serviceable back-up catcher.
It could be that biggest changes the Cardinals make in the off season will be in the coaching staff. Mike Matheny inherited guys like Jose Oquendo, Mark McGwire and Dyar Miller. Don’t be surprised if Matheny wants to add another one of “his guys” to his staff.
Barring something unforeseen, the Cardinals should be serious contenders again next year. They’ll still have a number of all star caliber players on their roster. They should also have a hunger to get back to the World Series after ending this season with a terrible taste in their mouths.