Sure, there's a gaping hole in the 3-spot in the order, but the departure of Albert Pujols (yeah, I was joking about Punto) has given the Cards a boatload of payroll flexibility.
They extended Rafael Furcal, Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and Carlos Beltran - but none for more than two years. After 2013, the only guaranteed contracts belong to Matt Holliday and Jamie Garcia.
Reportedly, the team is also close to an agreement with Yadier Molina - not only the best catcher of the Flying Molina Brothers, but arguably the best catcher in baseball. A deal with Molina would have been unlikely, if not impossible, with a 10-year, gazillion dollar contract extension for Pujols.
The minor league system is strong, too. It was recently ranked fourth by Keith Law and is well regarded by Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America.
A much bigger question mark is rookie manager Mike Matheny. Picked over Tito Francona and a couple of internal candidates, it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to manage not only at the big league level, but any level. He is one of GM Mozeliak's "guys", and it seems that the succession plan was in place before Tony LaRussa announced his retirement.
Living in the area, I know a lot of Cardinals fans. Many were ready to jump off the Poplar Street Bridge with the announcement of Pujols' departure for LAAA. But like the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, Cardinals fans will return Busch Stadium in droves this year as they always do, and they'll have a pretty good team to watch.
Edited by InstantKarmma, 01 March 2012 - 01:53 PM.