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.

Guardians trade OF Will Benson to Reds for OF Justin Boyd

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Guardians traded outfielder Will Benson to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday for outfielder Justin Boyd.

The defending AL Central champions also will get a player to be named from the Reds in the swap.

Cincinnati drafted Boyd in the second round last year out of Oregon State. He led the Pac-12 with a .373 batting average and 24 steals in 2022. The 21-year-old batted .203 in 73 at-bats for Class-A Daytona.

The 6-foot-5 Benson spent 28 games with the Guardians last season, batting .182 with three RBIs in 28 games. The 24-year-old struggled at the plate, striking out 19 times in just 55 at-bats.

Benson was once considered one of Cleveland’s top outfield prospects, but has since been surpassed by Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez and Will Brennan.