COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals are in desperate need of finding a new shortstop this offseason, and speculation has already begun as to where and whom general manager John Mozeliak will target.
The Cardinals are loaded with young, cheap players who are already contributing at the MLB-level. Players like Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal have already made huge contributions and have shown flashes of their tremendous upside under extreme pressure prior to the age of 23. Other impact players such as Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Matt Carpenter have also displayed their worth as huge contributors.
When it comes to making upgrades to a roster and making a team better, usually almost any player could be made available if the circumstances are right. But the Cardinals are a rare case. There is a strong core and nucleus of players in St. Louis that are simply untouchable. A group of players that will dictate the future success of the St. Louis franchise. A collection of athletes that have more value in a Cardinals uniform than they would have in any mythical proposed trade.
Here is a look at six guys the Cardinals definitely will not move this winter:
Adam Wainwright - The Cardinals' ace finished second in this year's NL Cy Young Award vote and after learning under Chris Carpenter for several seasons, is the unquestioned emotional leader of the young pitching staff. He is also the most important part of the pitching staff on the field, and his 19 wins and 2.96 ERA in 2013 is only part of the reason.
Wainwright is an absolute workhorse, leading the National League with 241.2 innings pitched in 2013. Wainwright's ability to log huge innings relieves pressure off the rest of the young rotation and bullpen.
Wainwright recently signed a five-year, $97.5 million contract extension, which is a deep discount for an ace that is valuable both on and off the field.
Yadier Molina - The Cardinals catcher does it all. Molina may be the best defensive catcher baseball has seen in the past 20 years. He deserves a lot of credit for how he has handled the Cardinals' young pitchers. More than a handful of sub-25-year-olds have seamlessly made the transition to everyday life as a MLB pitcher in the past two seasons in St. Louis -- and Molina is a huge reason why.
Oh, and then there is the offense. Molina finished the season tired for third in the NL with a .319 batting average. His 44 doubles were second in the National League behind teammate Matt Carpenter. Molina's 80 RBIs were the second-most among all catchers in baseball.
Molina does it all. He is the rock of the St. Louis Cardinals, and his $15 million per year salary is absolutely a bargain that St. Louis could never part with.
Matt Carpenter - When the Cardinals needed to find somebody with a competent bat to play second base, they asked Carpenter to make the move. When St. Louis needed a leadoff hitter, Carpenter was summoned again.
The results could not have been better. Carpenter played defense on par with Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips and became one of the most lethal bats in the National League while placing fourth in the 2013 MVP vote.
Carpenter is not arbitration-eligible until 2015 and the Cardinals control his rights until 2018. He is cheap, he is flexible, and he is unbelievably steady and selfless. It is unclear where Carpenter will play in the field in 2014 or where he will hit in the lineup, but there is no question that he will be in a Cardinal uniform in 2014.
Allen Craig - The Cardinals managed to play outstanding baseball during the month of September and throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs without Craig, but that does not speak to his extreme value.
Like Carpenter, Craig is flexible and is able to play first base and both of the corner outfield spots. Also, like Carpenter, he is an absolute weapon at the plate. Craig has an uncanny knack of being able to come up with clutch hits with runners on base and his five-year, $31 million contract extension signed last winter make him yet another bargain that cannot be moved.
Michael Wacha - Wacha is one of the Cardinals' many promising young guns, but, as he showed at the end of the season, he is the one young stud the organization absolutely cannot move on without.
At just 22 years of age, Wacha displayed that he is already capable of being a front-line starter. His fastball is pinpoint. His changeup is filthy. His curve ball has promise. His poise is unparalleled.
Almost every team that Mozeliak talks to this winter will ask about Wacha, and there is absolutely zero chance that Mozeliak makes him available.
Trevor Rosenthal - At 23 years of age, Rosenthal has already displayed an ability to be an absolutely dominant reliever and teased that he could and likely will be an exceptional closer. Rosenthal struck out an eye-popping 12.9 hitters per nine innings in 2013 and was extraordinary during the postseason.
But Rosenthal is more than that. He still has a pedigree to possibly be a stud starter. It is unlikely that he gets a chance to start in the near-term in St. Louis, but it is even more unlikely that the Cardinals would be willing to part with the anchor of the bullpen in 2014.
It feels inevitable that Mozeliak and the Cardinals will make some sort of move this winter. The scale and size of the transaction remains a mystery, but it is almost a certainty that any deal that St. Louis pulls off will not involve the names Wainwright, Molina, Carpenter, Craig, Wacha or Rosenthal.
Corey Rudd is owner/editor of StlSportsMinute.com and co-host of Fan Interference on CBS Sports 920 AM in St. Louis. Rudd writes about the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams and Missouri Tigers football team as a contributor for Yahoo Sports. You can follow him on Twitter here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Matt Carpenter
- Trevor Rosenthal
- Michael Wacha
- Yadier Molina
- Adam Wainwright