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Cardinal Season Preview: Players Lost for 2014

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MLB Free Agents:

John Axford, RHP, Cleveland Indians: The Cardinals took a chance on Axford, and it paid off; not enough to warrant an almost $7M to a set up guy. The Indians were looking for a closer after releasing former Cardinal Chris Perez; Axford was the guy they targeted, even though he hasn’t really closed in the last couple of years. Contract: 1 yr, $4.5M.

Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Yankees: Beltran was a true asset in St. Louis and proved he was not done as a player; unfortunately, he wanted a longer deal than the Cardinals wanted to give. The Yankees were looking to revamp their outfield, and Beltran got the right side of the field after the Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury for center (Brett Gardner will move to left). He should enjoy the short right field in Yankee Stadium. Contract: 3 yr, $45M.

Chris Carpenter, RHP, Retired: Carpenter will go down as one of the greats in Cardinal history, even though he was only with the organization for 11 seasons. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s inducted into the Cardinal Hall of Fame once it gets up and running. It was announced mid-January that Carp will be joining the Cardinal’s front office as an assistant to John Mozeliak and a spring training coach; this is great news to the organization as he’ll be a positive influence to kids in the system. Contract: N/A.

Rafael Furcal, SS, Florida Marlins: 2013 was a lost year for Furcal, who really can’t have many more left in his career. Furcal was important to the Cardinals when he was one the field; he was able to get on base at a decent clip and was league average in the field. The Marlins were able to convince him to join them as a second baseman since they have Adienny Hechavarra as their starting shortstop; the move should help Furcal squeeze a few more years out of his career. Contract: 1 yr, $3M.

Edward Mujica, RHP, Boston Red Sox: Mujica’s contribution to the 2013 Cardinals was truly unexpected; had you told me he’d be an All Star Closer for 90% of the season, I would have laughed. But when the opportunity arose, he stepped in. Unfortunately, he wore down by September and was pretty much not even an option in October. Boston had an opening for a set-up man, which is Mujica’s strong suite; he’ll probably be one of the main 8th inning guys for the team. Contract: 2 yr, $9.5M.

Jake Westbrook, RHP, Retired: Westbrook provided the Cardinals with plenty of innings for the last few years; the quality of those innings may not have been the greatest though. I will say he started off 2013 strong; unfortunately he couldn’t come back from injury to be the same pitcher. With all of the younger, cheaper, better options the Cardinals have, Westbrook wasn’t in the plans for the team. After watching the pitching market develop late, Westbrook acknowledged that his options were limited; the pitcher decided that spending time with his family was worth more than the day-to-day grind of baseball. Contract: N/A.

Ty Wigginton, 1B, Miami Marlins: The Cardinals cut ties with Wigginton mid-way through 2013 after guaranteeing a 2 yr, $5M prior to the season; no one picked the utility player up, until the Marlins offered him a minor league deal in January. He’ll fight for a bench role, but is probably destined for the minors out of spring training.

MiLB Free Agents:

Signed: Nick Additon (LHP, Baltimore Orioles); Richard Castillo (RHP, Colorado Rockies); Justin Christian (OF, Tampa Bay Rays); Ruben Gotay (3B, Cincinnati Reds); Deryk Hooker (RHP, Athletics); Rob Johnson (C/RHP, San Diego Padres); Brock Peterson (OF, Washington Nationals); Jamie Romak (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers); Zach Russell (RHP, Texas Rangers).

Players of note: Gotay saw MLB action before signing with the Cardinals; he didn’t make it up with the big league club though and probably won’t with Cincinnati…Johnson was brought in last year to work with the young pitching staff and as insurance for the MLB catching staff; Johnson signed with the Padres as a pitcher and will probably spend the season in the minors getting acclimated to the mound…Peterson saw limited action with the Cardinals this season as a bench player; he was signed before last season for depth and is no real loss to the organization…

Unsigned: Joe Almaraz (1B, Not Signed); Adron Chambers (OF, Not Signed); Ramon Delgado (RHP, Not Signed); Yoenny Gonzalez (OF, Not Signed); Kyle Grieshaber (3B, Not Signed); Chad Huffman (OF, Not Signed); Geoff Klein (C, Not Signed); Adam Lewis (C, Not Signed); Victor Marte (RHP, Not Signed); Leandro Mateo (2B, Not Signed); Ben O’Shea (LHP, Not Signed); Willy Paulino (RHP, Not Signed); Tyler Rahatulla (3B, Not Signed); Jay Voss (LHP, Not Signed); Brad Watson (RHP, Not Signed).

Players of note: Chambers was up and down with the Cardinals the last few years; he was outrighted off the roster in November and decided to become a free agent…Marte got the call a few times, but wildness kept him from being a fixture in the bullpen; he’ll probably go to Indy ball until an affiliated job opens up…

Traded:

David Freese (3B) and Fernando Salas (RHP) to the Los Angeles Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randall Grichuk: Hometown hero Freese needed this change of scenery; after what he did for the team in the 2011 World Series, he’d never be able to top it. In fact, he struggled since his All Star appearance in 2012. The writing was on the wall after 2013, when Kolten Wong was declared ready and Matt Carpenter able to move back to third; Freese was squeezed out. A fresh start should get him back on track, and Los Angeles is as good a place as any. Salas was just as important to the 2011 team, as he was the closer down the stretch; he stabilized the bullpen until Jason Motte took over the role in the post season. Since losing the closer job, Salas has had control issues causing him to be shuttled between St. Louis and Memphis. With the young arms coming like crazy, he became expendable.

Claimed on Waivers:

Ryan Jackson, SS, Houston Astros: Jackson had a rough go of it in St. Louis; he was obviously better than Pete Kozma throughout the minors, but never got a true shot to win the shortstop job in 2013. It was clear he wasn’t getting a shot in 2014 either with Jhonny Peralta joining the team. Since the Astros claimed him, he was traded to the Padres for Jesus Guzman.

Claimed in Rule V Draft:

Hector Hernandez (LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks); Jake Lemmerman (2B, San Diego Padres); Kevin Thomas (RHP, Minnesota Twins)

Players of note: All three players were taken in the Triple A phase of the Rule V Draft, meaning they don’t have to stick to a specific roster at that level.

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