It won’t take the sting out of Monday’s Game 7 loss to the Giants, but the Cardinals have a great chance of being a better team in 2013 than they were this year.
The Cardinals’ only key free agents are Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman. Berkman didn’t contribute this year anyway, and the Cardinals have a full rotation without Lohse:
Top prospect Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal are all available as fallbacks should Garcia’s shoulder remain a problem. Rosenthal presents a particularly intriguing option; if he remains in the pen, he’ll be a dominant weapon in the eighth. However, he has a whole lot of upside as a starter.
The Cardinals will also bring back their lineup intact, with Rafael Furcal expected back at shortstop after missing the end of this season with an elbow injury. Matt Carpenter could get a look at second as a potential upgrade from Daniel Descalso. And top prospect Oscar Taveras should be ready to step in if Carlos Beltran misses more time than he did this year.
So, the Cardinals may have a quiet winter, but that’s probably for the best. Even if teams like the Dodgers and Nationals make more noise, the Cardinals have as good of a shot as any NL team to reach the World Series next year.