Expecting a Little Mo’

Nick Punto. Miguel Batista. Gerald Laird. Ryan Theriot. Brian Tallet. Raul Valdez. Jim Edmonds.

These would be among the Cardinals not-so-noteworthy off-season pick-ups. Lance Berkman could potentially be the exception, but he had a disappointing, injury-plagued 2010 season. For a team with a lot of holes that left them five games behind the Cincinnati Reds and out of playoff spot for the third time in the last four seasons, this list of names is not exactly what Cardinals fans had in mind.

In general, here’s how I see the Cardinals lineup heading into 2011.

1. Schumaker
2. Berkman/Jay/Edmonds platoon
3. Pujols
4. Holliday
5. Rasmus
6. Freese
7. Molina
8. Theriot
9. Pitcher

All in all, it’s not a terrible lineup. If you couple it with the starting rotation of Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, and Westbrook, you’re looking at a top five team in the National League. But when you’re a player or two away from potentially being in the top-2 in the league, why not go for it, especially considering the uncertainty looming ahead for the team in 2012.

And that brings me to my next point. Not only have the Cardinals failed to significantly improve the 2011 club, they haven’t been able to get anywhere with Albert Pujols. Now unless the team offers him less than 175 million dollars, I’m not going to hold them accountable for Pujols leaving should it come down to that. Even though there’s been very little concrete information from the contract negotiations this winter, I think most Cardinals fans (at least in the back of their minds) are mentally preparing to get “Lebroned.” Not to say Albert would leave us without saying goodbye, but it would be a very similar sort of heartbreak should he leave the franchise. His preseason deadline to sign is February 15th. At this point, I’d be stunned if a deal got done. In other words, he’s going to become a free agent, and that’s scary.

Should that scenario play out, and the Cardinals arrive at spring training knowing that at years end Pujols, Berkman, Rasmus, and Tony La Russa will be in the final years of their contracts, and players like Carpenter and Molina have options, wouldn’t you expect Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak to go for it this year? I’m not saying he should’ve thrown obscene money at Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford, but the Cubs and Brewers both got creative in trading for impact pitchers Matt Garza and Zach Greinke. Isn’t there something else Mozeliak could’ve worked out by now?

Perhaps he’s just picking his spot. He showed two years ago he could land a big name player mid-season in Matt Holiday. Only time will tell how the Cardinals will try to improve the team. But one thing is certain: this offseason has left Cardinals fans waiting for a little more action from Mo’.

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