Where did the St. Louis Cardinals go?
The Kansas City Royals have certainly made a splash early this offseason.
Although the squad lost the highly touted sensation Wil Myers, the Blue Crew managed to invite 2012 All-Star pitcher James Shields to pen his name on a healthy contract. They got his former Tampa Bay Rays teammate, pitcher Wade Davis. Not bad.
But with that said, where did the St. Louis Cardinals go?
The only news out of the Gateway to the West so far this offseason is the departure of crowd favorite Skip Schumaker to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the signage of free agent infielder Ty Wigginton.
That's basically it.
We're talking about a team that was one game away from its third World Series since 2006. Maybe when a team is in the chase so often, ownership is contented, and I get that, but aren't there specific team needs the Red Birds need to address?
Exhibit A: Check out the Cardinals' starting pitching rotation. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright headline the group from a year ago, but to succeed in a very competitive National League Central division, a third starter with an impressive resume would certainly bolster the defense.
Enter Kyle Lohse. In 2012, Lohse finished 16-3 in 33 games with an ERA of 2.86. His 143 strikeouts and 211 innings pitched lead the entire pitching roster. With a hefty price tag, Lohse may be a stretch considering his style of ground-ball pitching. Even if another unit snags Lohse, however, that third starting spot will be an area of concern, especially if Jaime Garcia performs similarly to 2012. The club may still look to its young pitchers (Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller) in the offseason and make a decision on whether or not to keep Lohse.
Exhibit B: The Cardinals should also consider a left-hander for the bullpen. Late in the season, Mark Rzepczynski was not enough to propel the Cardinals to the championship series. Tampa Bay's left-hander J.P. Howell appeared in 55 games a year ago and pitched well. A 3.04 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 50 innings are impressive stats, but a mediocre 2011 may hurt his reputation. That said, Howell's fastball could be worth taking a look at to improve a steady bullpen. Another worthwhile consideration – the former hard-tossing Washington Nationals pitcher, Sean Burnett. 57 strikeouts in 56.2 innings isn't bad.
Final Exhibit: St. Louis is in dire need of bench depth. Whether that help will come in the form of a minor leaguer or free agency is unknown, but Cardinals' ownership should certainly consider improving the roster's reserves. Wigginton added a little help and outfielder Allen Craig was solid filling in for the injured Lance Berkman. That said, the Cardinals could still use an extra utility-type player who can make an impact. Perhaps Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong could make an impact in 2013.
Final word: Baseball doesn't just disappear at the final out in the World Series. In fact, the 2013 season began right when the dreaded San Francisco Giants won the NL pennant. Popular belief is that for a team to have success, it must make a big slash in the offseason pool. Sometimes, that isn't the case – as in Albert Pujols moving to Los Angeles. Think of it this way; maybe the Cardinals are just taking it slow and easing into a handful of under-the-radar moves.
Only time will tell.