The St. Louis Cardinals continued their busy offseason by signing veteran second baseman Mark Ellis. Ellis most recently played with the Dodgers, and he will turn 37 next season, but the Cardinals just want him as insurance at second for young Kolten Wong, who they plan to play regularly in 2014. Ellis has played 11 seasons in the majors and is seen as a steady player and a good presence in the clubhouse.
The Ellis signing follows the signing of shortstop Jhonny Peralta and the David Freese trade which acquired outfielder Peter Bourjos. The moves have made for a busy first half of the offseason, and general manager John Mozeliak has filled the roster holes which he saw, with Ellis filling the role of right-handed bat with experience that can come off the bench or spell Wong.
It appears the Cardinals have no more glaring needs, and that the remainder of their offseason might be rather quiet. But there are still many questions. The additions of Bourjos and Peralta blur the upcoming roles for Jon Jay and Pete Kozma respectively. Both were regular starters last year and figure to be relegated unless there is a major injury. Both Kozma and Jay are in their 20s so other teams might find more value in their services than the Cards currently do.
The Cardinals also have what appears to be expendable pitching. The emergence of Michael Wacha and the expected return of Jaime Garcia create a crowded starting rotation of six, and that is not including phenom Carlos Martinez. The return of Jason Motte from injury makes for a solid and deep bullpen.
So the Cardinals now sit in a strong position where they have coveted assets, yet are not desperate with any particular need. Although another major move would be difficult to predict at this point, Mozeliak is assuredly gauging the interest of other teams in some of his young starters like Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, and possibly Joe Kelly. Moving one of those pitchers now when their value is high might allow the Cards to receive quite a haul of young players in return, an investment that might not be such a blow to the current big league club.
But it is also clear that Mozeliak values depth, especially with pitching. The Cards’ 2013 season proved to be a prime example of how easily pitchers can go down for significant time with an injury. The Cardinals’ payroll is not too high at this point, so they may choose to keep the abundance of major league talent and wait it out.
The only logical move remaining for the Cardinals would be to grab another experienced bullpen arm. But it would likely not be one with a large salary attached. However the club should have their ears and eyes open for takers on Lynn, Kozma, and possibly Jay or Miller. Those players stock could drop if they get buried on the depth chart this year, but as it stands they could certainly merit a quality major leaguer or at least some prospects in return.