In the span of three days, the St. Louis Cardinals remade their infield.
On Nov. 22, the Cardinals dealt third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas to the Angels in exchange for center fielder Peter Bourjos and minor league outfielder Randal Grichuk.
On Nov. 24, free agent Jhonny Peralta landed a four-year contract with St. Louis. The Cardinals did not announce financial terms, but media outlets reported the deal was worth $52 million or $53 million.
Matt Carpenter likely will move from second base to third base, with rookie Kolten Wong set to take over at second.
Peralta takes over a position that was a trouble spot for the Cardinals in 2013. Rafael Furcal was expected to be the shortstop, but he missed the entire season following Tommy John surgery. Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso shared time and provided little offense.
Peralta missed 50 games late last season serving a suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Fourteen players were penalized for their involvement with the now-shuttered South Florida anti-aging clinic that Major League Baseball maintains was a source of banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Peralta returned to action the final days of the regular season, and he alternated playing left field and shortstop for the Tigers during their run to the World Series.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak defended bringing in a player coming off a PED suspension.
"Character and makeup are something we weigh into our decision-making," Mozeliak said. "In his case, he admitted what he did, he took responsibility for it. I feel like he has paid for his mistakes, and obviously if he were to make another one, then it would be a huge disappointment. ...
"I don't think it's the Cardinals' responsibility necessarily to be the moral police."
In 10 postseason games, Peralta hit .333 with one homer and six RBIs. In the regular season, he batted .303 with a .358 on-base percentage, a .457 slugging percentage, 11 homers and 55 RBIs in 107 games.
Over his 11-year career (the first 7 1/2 years with the Cleveland Indians), Peralta has a career batting line of .268/.330/.425 with 156 homers and 698 RBIs. He was an All-Star for Detroit in 2011 and 2013.
Not everyone was thrilled about Peralta's payday in light of the shortstop's recent suspension.
Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Brad Ziegler, on his Twitter account, put a link to a story about Peralta's contract and wrote, "It pays to cheat ... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use ... People really don't understand how this works. We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it's not. So we are working on it again."
Free agent pitcher David Aardsma wrote on Twitter, "Apparently getting suspended for PED's means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? #weneedtomakeachange ... I had 2 major surgeries in 5 months and made it back clean, nothing pisses me off more than guys that cheat and get raises for doing so."
2013: 97-65, first place in NL Central, lost to Red Sox in World Series
TEAM MVP: C Yadier Molina and 2B Matt Carpenter tie for the honor. The statistics point to Carpenter, who was asked to play a new position, second base, in his first year as a regular and he also was asked to bat leadoff, a spot he was unaccustomed to. The results were that he led the league in hits, runs, doubles and had an on-base percentage of .392. Molina gets an equal nod, though, because of his handling of a pitching staff which had as many as many as 11 rookies at various points. And he also hit .319. These two should finish among the top three or four in the league Most Valuable Player balloting.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Burdened by a lower back injury suffered in spring training when he tumbled while chasing a foul ball, 3B David Freese got off to a slow start and never really found his power stroke, finishing with just nine homers and 60 RBIs. He did deliver some big hits down the stretch and seemed improved defensively but he did not have the kind of year expected of him.
TOP PROSPECT: The Cardinals had 20 rookies appear for them this season but their top prospect didn't get here, as planned. OF Oscar Taveras, bothered by a high ankle injury which eventually required surgery, appeared in just 46 games at Triple-A Memphis, hitting .306 with five homers and 32 RBIs. Taveras, 21, was viewed mostly as a corner outfielder with the hope that he could learn to play center efficiently but he didn't get a full season at that position this year. He may have to start next season in Memphis again but he won't be there long.
--RHP John Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals on Dec. 2, making him a free agent. Axford, 30, was the Brewers' closer from 2010-12. He wound up as a middle reliever in 2013, then was dealt to St. Louis in August. Axford had no decisions and a 1.59 ERA in six postseason appearances for the National League champion Cardinals.
--CF Peter Bourjos and OF Randal Grichuk were acquired by the Cardinals in a deal that sent 3B David Freese and RHP Fernando Salas to the Angels, the teams confirmed Nov. 22.
Freese, 30, hit .293 with 20 home runs for the Cardinals in 2012, his third straight season hitting .293 or better. However, his batting average slipped to .262 with nine homers in 138 games in 2013. He was the World Series and National League Championship Series MVP in 2011 when the Cardinals won the World Series.
Salas, 28, figures to be a middle reliever for the Angels after going 0-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 28 innings for the Cardinals last season.
Bourjos, 26, hit .274 with three homers in 55 games with the Angels this year. He missed more than a month with a fractured right wrist, struggled upon his return and finally underwent season-ending surgery in September. He is expected to be ready for spring training. Bourjos is a superb fielder, but the Angels are set in center field with Mike Trout.
Grichuk, 22, was the Angels' first-round pick in 2009. He hit 256 with 22 home runs this year for Double-A Arkansas.
--RHP Chris Carpenter told the Cardinals that he plans to make his retirement official, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Nov. 20. Carpenter missed the 2013 season while trying to come back from thoracic outlet syndrome, which affects nerves in the neck and shoulder area, and he had hinted that he was thinking of walking away from the game.
His career was short-circuited by injuries that ranged from a torn labrum in the shoulder to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Carpenter missed all or portions of the 2003, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2013 seasons.
When Carpenter was healthy, he was considered one of the best starting pitchers in the game. He won the National League Cy Young Award in 2005 and the NL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2009. He also was named to three All-Star teams.
--OF Adron Chambers, who was on the Cardinals' roster for the first two rounds of the postseason, was outrighted off the roster Nov. 5 and elected to become a free agent. Chambers, 27, went 0-for-5 in the playoffs. In the regular season, he hit .154/.241/.192 with one RBI in 25 games.
--OF/1B Brock Peterson and C Rob Johnson were outrighted off the Cardinals' roster and became free agents Nov. 5. Peterson, 29, appeared in 23 games for St. Louis this year, going 2-for-26 (.077) with two RBIs. Johnson, 31, hit .171 with two RBIs in 20 games for the Cardinals. He would have been eligible for arbitration this winter.
--RHP Shelby Miller probably had the least playoff time for most games won in the regular season for any pitcher in history who was not injured. Miller threw one inning of Game 2 in the division series and then wasn't employed again, falling victim to a Catch 22 in that he hadn't pitched in so long, the Cardinals didn't think it was fair to use him. He admitted to being perplexed by the process, but didn't complain publicly.
--RHP Jake Westbrook, who had a fast start but then fell victim to injury and inefficiency and then total non-use, didn't have his $9.5 million option for 2014 picked up. The club bought him out for $1 million.
--2B Matt Carpenter should be ready for a long winter's rest. Counting the postseason, Carpenter had nearly 800 plate appearances.
--RF Carlos Beltran's two-year, $26 million contract is up. The Cardinals made him a qualifying offer of $14.1 million to retain a draft pick if he signs elsewhere, but he declined. They probably won't offer more than one year to the prospective free agent with 1B Matt Adams and, soon, presumably, OF Oscar Taveras, needing playing time.
--1B Matt Adams, who battled a sore elbow down the stretch, said he didn't think he would be having another surgery, as he had in the summer of 2012. Adams hit just .136 in the World Series.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told them to hold their head high. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We all know that we could come out and played a better game than what we did here." -- Manager Mike Matheny, on his postgame message to his players after the Cardinals lost the decisive sixth game of the World Series to the Red Sox.
The Cardinals are flush with young pitching and should be strong in that area for several years to come. It will be interesting to see if they keep both Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen. Rosenthal likely will be the closer at the start of the season until Jason Motte, who had Tommy John elbow surgery last May, returns and, even then, Motte might come back as a setup man.
All the key players on the club are signed, with the exception of free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The club could use right-handed bench help, or any bench help. Cardinals pinch hitters batted just .201 in the regular season with three homers, all by Matt Adams, who wound up at first base when Allen Craig was injured.
ARRIVALS: CF Peter Bourjos (trade with Angels), SS Jhonny Peralta (free agent from Tigers)
DEPARTURES: 3B David Freese (traded to Angels), RHP Fernando Salas (traded to Angels), RHP Edward Mujica (free agent, signed with Red Sox), SS Rafael Furcal (free agent, signed with Marlins)
FREE AGENTS: OF Carlos Beltran, RHP Chris Carpenter, RHP Jake Westbrook, RHP John Axford
Beltran further solidified himself as a clutch postseason performer during the Cardinals' run to the World Series, but at his age he needs numerous days off to survive the grind of the regular season. He will generate plenty of interest should he get to the free agent market. Carpenter, who had a nerve ailment that affected his neck and shoulder, didn't play in the majors after an aborted minor league rehab option. Westbrook's $9.5 million wasn't picked up.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: CF Jon Jay, INF Daniel Descalso, OF Peter Bourjos
IN LIMBO: RHP Lance Lynn, a 15-game winner, could be dealt.
--1B Allen Craig (sprained left foot) probably will not need surgery but certainly will need rest.
--LHP Jaime Garcia (left shoulder surgery in May 2013) had a torn labrum repaired. He was throwing bullpen sessions and pitching in simulated innings at the end of the season and expects to be ready for spring training.
--RHP Jason Motte (Tommy John surgery in May 2013) was throwing at the end of the season and might be ready sometime in spring training. A likely return date for him, though, is May.
--OF Peter Bourjos (right wrist surgery in September 2013) had a pin inserted into the wrist. He should be ready for spring training.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jhonny Peralta
- Peter Bourjos
- David Freese
- Matt Carpenter
- Tommy John surgery