Cardinals offseason: Filling out the infield

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Winning the NL pennant isn't what it used to be. The Cardinals are probably pretty hungry for another shot, and since their organization is a deterministic supermachine, they'll get that chance next season.

St. Louis' roster versatility was one of their major strengths in 2013. It maximized the production of their older players -- namely impending free agent Carlos Beltran -- and allowed them to ease their prospects into the major leagues.

This was especially true with Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez.

Their slowly increasing roles lead to the team's ability to rely on their fledgling aces in the biggest games of the year...well, except for Shelby Miller.

But his presence in the rotation early in the season was an important part of the Cards' success regardless of his role in the playoffs.

Perhaps GM John Mozeliak can field a team of 25 players -- rather than 23 -- if his team returns to the World Series in 2014.

Free agents

Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Edward Mujica, John Axford and Jake Westbrook

They might drop a few more players that are due raises through arbitration in effort to trim the fat. Clearly, Beltran will be the toughest guy to replace on this list. The Cardinals have blue chipper Oscar Taveras waiting in the minors but they won't rush him to the Bigs if he isn't ready. Taveras might have already made his debut, but he sustained a high ankle sprain and the injury lead to season-ending surgery in August. He's expected to be ready for spring.

Furcal and Mujica seem likely to move on, as both players are recovering from injuries and don't fit the Cardinals plans as long-term solutions. Mujica might receive a significant offer on the market, but the Cardinals will likely focus their attention elsewhere. John Axford is due a raise from his $5M 2013 salary through arbitration. The Cardinals won't retain him at that cost.

Westbrook's option has already been declined by St. Louis and Carpenter is expected to retire.

Needs

SS, Bench

St. Louis has been rumored to have interest in many shortstops around the league and they don't have a player in their system that can productively fill the position. This might be the year they pony up the prospects (or the cash) for a dynamic player at the position. The Cards will have to at least consider moving on from David Freese. He's been injury-prone and had an awful season defensively. They can move players around better than most organizations, but that technique might leave them short-handed on an already somewhat limited bench.

Trade Pieces

Pitching

Like the Red Sox, the Cardinals have more prospects than they know what do with at times, but they don't part with them often. The team could shop David Freese -- assuming he isn't non-tendered -- by moving Matt Carpenter to third and using Kolten Wong at second. Their pitching is deep throughout the organization, but their formula seems to be based around cultivating that talent rather than trading it away. Though they might have to this winter to bring in a solid shortstop.

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