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If the Cardinals lose Albert Pujols…

Dec 6, 2011, 8:23 PM EDT

Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday AP

Because that certainly seems to be the way things are going down at the moment.

The Cardinals were supposed to be set at first base and in right field if Pujols departed, as Lance Berkman would move a first base position that fits him a whole lot better anyway and Allen Craig would take over in right field. However, the news that Craig underwent knee surgery that left him doubtful for Opening Day changed things significantly.

Without Pujols, the Cardinals would ideally go get themselves a guy who can play regularly in the outfield, as well as a shortstop to start over Tyler Greene. They’re OK at second base with Daniel Descalso.

They should enter the market for Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, though Rafael Furcal and Alex Gonzalez appear to be more likely options. For the outfield, while right field is the immediate need, it’d be best if they could get someone capable of playing center in case Jon Jay slips. Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes would be plenty intriguing, but at $60 million or more, he’s likely out of reach. Carlos Beltran would be pretty much perfect for the team, too. Lesser options include Michael Cuddyer, Cody Ross, Andruw Jones.

If the Cardinals choose not to bid on Rollins or Beltran, they’d have the money to upgrade the pitching staff instead. They’re in pursuit of Mark Buehrle as a replacement for either Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook. Also, they could address the bullpen. Jason Motte did just fine as the closer for the world champs, but if Francisco Rodriguez or Ryan Madson starts shaping up as a potential bargain, the Cardinals shouldn’t rule out signing one for the ninth.

There’s really nothing out there that would soften the blow of losing Pujols, but given that the Cardinals still have plenty of front-line talent and play in a weak division, they’ll be definite candidates to return to the postseason next year. Whether they’d shape up as more of an 88-win team or a 95-win team is still to be determined.

  1. richeich - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:26 PM

    RIGHT ON!

  2. dwrek5 - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:33 PM

    I would like to see them get another outfielder anyway. Depending on Jay and Craig to perform consistently for a 150+ games is a bit of a gamble.
    Ross is interesting. Could be cheap, could fill in for Craig to start the season, can spell Jay in center when need be. Lots of AB’s available.

    • paperlions - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:00 PM

      Craig has hit the shit out of the ball at every level he’s played at since the day the Cardinals signed him….depending on him to be a consistent hitter next year is exactly what should be done….going out to sign a guy because Craig might not be ready until May is just foolish.

      • stlouis1baseball - Dec 7, 2011 at 10:24 AM

        Dwrek: Depending on A.C. to perform for 150 games is exactly what we have been waiting on. They have been trying to find him a spot since he was called up. Granted…I don’t want to find him a spot as a result of 1st Base being vacated by #5. But yes…counting on Craig for a full season is exactly what the Cardinals will (and should) do.

  3. wardmanone - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    Okay was trying to follow your logic until made the comment on weak division were you aware they were the Wild Card by watching power house east and west fade away. Pretty sure that weak division will be weaker using your logic

    • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 6, 2011 at 8:42 PM

      The top is fine, but it’s also home to three of baseball’s worst teams.

    • Chip Caray's Eyebrows - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:59 PM

      The wild card contender from the East definitely faded away, but it also didn’t have the season-long luxury of extra matchups with the Pirates, Astros and Cubs. The Central was bad, no matter how well the top two teams ended up.

    • stlouis1baseball - Dec 7, 2011 at 10:26 AM

      Ward: I immediately noticed the same thing. That “weak division” happened to have what (2) of the last (4) teams playing and the ultimately World Series winner?

  4. stex52 - Dec 6, 2011 at 9:50 PM

    As I already said, I hope Albert stays. But if not, Berkman will be solid at 1st. I would go for pitching depth and fill in the outfield and SS with more role-player types. They will still have a very solid middle of the other. Pujols (outside of that one monster game) was not really the driving force in the WS this year.

  5. goawaydog - Dec 6, 2011 at 10:56 PM

    Random question that has been bugging me with all this Pujols potentially going to the Marlins talk. Say Pujols does go to the Marlins, in 10 years he could net another WS and an MVP or 3 there too. when he enters the HoF which cap does he wear? the super ugly Marlins or the Red Bird of St. Louis?

    • randygnyc - Dec 7, 2011 at 12:11 AM

      Interesting question. I’d venture to say where ever his personal stats were strongest. It would be essentially the same amount of time in each place, too. As an example, let’s say the first team he won 3 world series and no mvps but at the next team, no rings but 3 Mvps, AND at the end of his career started to assault some all time records, he’d go in under the 2nd team.

      • stlouis1baseball - Dec 7, 2011 at 10:36 AM

        Randy/Goawaydog: Under your scenarios…it would be just the opposite. Unless of course he happened to win MORE than 2 titles elsewhere. He has always maintained that personal accomplishments mean absolutely nothing without the World Series Hardware.

  6. cintiphil - Dec 7, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    Well, it seems that all of this is for nothing. He is going to be a redbird after all. If the Marlins were interested really, they would have offered him 24-25 Mil/yr and locked everyone else out. The Cards would not have matched that number.

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