Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 12/12/11
The shock of Albert Pujols' stunning decision to leave St. Louis has wore off and the Cardinals have begun to move on. The first domino will fall this week when shortstop Rafael Furcal's two-year contract is officially announced. But what's next? What will the Cardinals do to fill the void left by one of the greatest hitters in the game today? We take a look at that question and more now. From @bryanmeyer31: Do you think the Cardinals will sign Carlos Beltran? This was by far the most popular question submitted. With Allen Craig's knee surgery likely making him unavailable to start the season, the Cardinals will likely look to add an established outfielder to fill the void until he returns. Carlos Beltran is certainly an intriguing option. He hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI last season in 142 games with the Mets and Giants. Beltran is a switch-hitter and would provide the Cardinals the right-handed hitting center fielder they seek for days when Jon Jay needs a day off or has a tough matchup. With the Cardinals now having money to spend, signing Beltran would appear to make a lot of sense. But two things might reduce the chances of a Beltran and St. Louis match. First, Beltran is represented by Dan Lozano, the agent for Albert Pujols. Nobody knows how the negotiations went or what the feeling was between the two sides when things broke down and Pujols signed with the Angels. The Cardinals might not be thrilled to re-engage Lozano in contract negotiations after he steered their franchise player to sign with another team. The second and maybe more important thing is that Beltran doesn't want to be a part-time player. He'll be 35 next season but has been a starter his entire career. He'll likely sign with someone to be a starting outfielder. When Craig returns in late April or early May, the Cardinals would be stuck with a log jam in the outfield. Craig deserves to play, meaning Beltran might become the fourth outfielder and struggle to find playing time. The Cardinals might be able to make it work and rotate Beltran, Jay and Craig in center and right, but who knows if Beltran would be OK with less than regular playing time if it came up. Beltran makes sense and would surely help provide the Cardinals with a big name to help replace the production lost by Pujols if they can promise him enough playing time. From @mikebloodworth: Michael Cuddyer makes a lot of sense to me. He can play every position that we need depth at. Any interest there? I got several questions about Cuddyer as well and I would think the Cardinals have to be interested in him. Whether or not they can afford him remains to be seen. The Minnesota Twins hope to re-sign him and reportedly offered him a three-year deal worth around 24 million last week. That breaks down to about 8 million per season, something the Cardinals could afford to do should they be interested. General manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals weren't just going to go out and spend 21 million for the heck of it, but that they would spend it if they found the right players. The 21 million was referring to what they were likely expecting to have to pay Pujols before he signed with the Angels. Cuddyer is a utility player who can play first base, second base or right field. He's played third base in his career as well and could play there in a pinch. The 32-year-old Cuddyer made his first All-Star team in 2011, hitting .284 with 20 home runs and 70 RBI. He's a career .272 hitter who is known as a great clubhouse presence, something the Cardinals give a lot of value to when looking for free agents. Free agent Nick Punto played with him in Minnesota and could persuade him to join the Cardinals should Punto be brought back. Cuddyer could move to a utility role when Craig returns and provide pop off the bench if he's not in the lineup. The Cardinals are giving Rafael Furcal about 7 million, meaning they have about 14 million to spend. They still have other signings to make and likely don't want to spend the entire 14 million. Cuddyer makes a lot of sense for this club but he might be a little too pricey to get something done. From @gamerscoach7: What are the Cardinals going to do with Skip Schumaker? Will he be an extra outfielder? The Cardinals have until 11 p.m. tonight to tender a contract to Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte. If a contract is tendered, the club and player will go to arbitration in February to determine their salary for next season if a contract can't be worked out before then. The only player of the four that is 100 percent guaranteed to be offered a contract is Motte, who is arbitration eligible for the first time and projected to make somewhere around 1.5 million next season. Kyle McClellan will likely be tendered a contract but I'm not convinced he will be a part of the team next season. McClellan was unhappy about being left off the World Series roster and other teams could see him as a starter, something he would rather do than relieve. If the Cardinals were to non-tender him, they would get nothing in return should he sign elsewhere. It makes sense for the Cardinals to tender him a contract, even if they pursue trading him before Spring Training. Schumaker was seen as a non-tender candidate but now that Pujols has signed elsewhere, I think there's a much better chance that he returns next season. He will be due somewhere around 3 million but with money to spend now that Pujols has left, I think the Cardinals value his clubhouse presence enough to spend it. He can play second base or the outfield and is one of the most respected guys in the clubhouse. The only one not likely to be tendered a contract is Theriot. The middle infielder lost his starting spot at shortstop midway through last season and became utilitybench player in the playoffs. He likely wouldn't be a starter for the Cardinals next season and paying him close to 4 million wouldn't seem to make much sense. So to answer the question about Schumaker, we won't know his status until sometime tonight. But if he returns, which I expect he will, he will likely be used as a super utility guy who can play second base and all three outfield spots. He's a very valuable guy who is respected by everyone in the clubhouse. The Cardinals could decide to play Schumaker in right field until Craig returns and then use him as a fourth outfielder as well as giving him occasional time at second base. It appears Dan Descalso will get the chance to play regularly at second base but Schumaker is not a bad backup option if he were to struggle.
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