If the Cardinals lose Albert Pujols…

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Because that certainly seems to be the way things are going down at the moment.

The Cardinals were supposed to be set at first base and in right field if Pujols departed, as Lance Berkman would move a first base position that fits him a whole lot better anyway and Allen Craig would take over in right field. However, the news that Craig underwent knee surgery that left him doubtful for Opening Day changed things significantly.

Without Pujols, the Cardinals would ideally go get themselves a guy who can play regularly in the outfield, as well as a shortstop to start over Tyler Greene. They’re OK at second base with Daniel Descalso.

They should enter the market for Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, though Rafael Furcal and Alex Gonzalez appear to be more likely options. For the outfield, while right field is the immediate need, it’d be best if they could get someone capable of playing center in case Jon Jay slips. Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes would be plenty intriguing, but at $60 million or more, he’s likely out of reach. Carlos Beltran would be pretty much perfect for the team, too. Lesser options include Michael Cuddyer, Cody Ross, Andruw Jones.

If the Cardinals choose not to bid on Rollins or Beltran, they’d have the money to upgrade the pitching staff instead. They’re in pursuit of Mark Buehrle as a replacement for either Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook. Also, they could address the bullpen. Jason Motte did just fine as the closer for the world champs, but if Francisco Rodriguez or Ryan Madson starts shaping up as a potential bargain, the Cardinals shouldn’t rule out signing one for the ninth.

There’s really nothing out there that would soften the blow of losing Pujols, but given that the Cardinals still have plenty of front-line talent and play in a weak division, they’ll be definite candidates to return to the postseason next year. Whether they’d shape up as more of an 88-win team or a 95-win team is still to be determined.

CC Sabathia wants to return to the Yankees in 2018

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CC Sabathia‘s contract is set to expire this offseason, but for the long-tenured left-hander, nowhere feels more like home than New York. “I want to see this through,” Sabathia told reporters after a devastating Game 7 loss in the ALCS. “This is where I want to play.” Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman spoke warmly of the veteran starter, but would make no public guarantees that he’d return to the team next spring.

Sabathia, 37, just topped off his 17th season in the big leagues and his eighth career postseason run. He went 14-5 in 27 starts and put up a 3.69 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 7.3 SO/9 in 148 2/3 innings, good for 1.9 fWAR. He looked solid in the playoffs, too, propelling the team to a much-needed win in Game 5 of the ALDS and returning in the Championship Series with six scoreless innings in Game 3. His season ended on a sour note during Game 7, however. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings against a dynamic Astros’ offense, allowing one run on five hits and three walks and failing to record a single strikeout for the first time in 23 career postseason appearances.

Heading into the 2017 offseason, Sabathia finally arrived at the end of his seven-year, $161 million deal with the Yankees. While he’s repeatedly expressed a desire to keep pitching, despite rumors that his career might be on the rocks following the diagnosis of a troublesome degenerative knee condition, the decision isn’t his alone to make. Brian Cashman will also be seeking an extension with the Yankees this winter, so it’s difficult to say which impending free agents the club will try to retain — and Sabathia’s name isn’t the only one on that list. If it were up to skipper Joe Girardi, who is awaiting a decision on his own future with the organization, the decision would be a no-brainer. From MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

CC will always be special to me because of what he stands for and the great player that he is, the great man that he is,” Girardi said. “The wonderful teammate that he is. How he pulls a team together. He’s as good as I’ve ever been around when it comes to a clubhouse guy, a guy that will take the ball when you’re on a losing streak or that you can count on, and knowing that it could be the possible last time.