Cardinals prepared to trade young starting pitching this winter for a shortstop upgrade

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Cardinals GM John Mozeliak is not being shy about his primary offseason strategy:

There are a couple of shortstop options on the free agent market in Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew, but the Cardinals would rather use their surplus of starting pitching to get a longer-term, more-reliable upgrade.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested earlier this month that Lance Lynn or Shelby Miller, both in the pre-arbitration stage, could be dangled in the search for Pete Kozma’s replacement. Kozma is a 25-year-old former first-round pick who fits part of Mo’s desired shortstop profile — young and controllable — but he had a brutal .652 OPS in the minors and owns a .608 OPS in 185 big league games.

The Cards have a ton of money coming off the books this winter between Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and Rafael Furcal, so a big contract won’t necessarily be a roadblock. That’s why we’ve seen St. Louis involved in speculation for the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki and the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus.

The 2013 National League champs currently carry eight legitimate MLB starters in Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Joe Kelly, Jaime Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Miller and Lynn.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.