Looking at 2012: Part 1

As the Cardinals near staring a 10 game deficit the topic of 2012 has once again crept into the minds of their fans. There are some huge questions hanging over the franchise as the season begins to wind down and I don’t know if there is another franchise with as much uncertainty towards next year.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, Albert Pujols is question #1 for the Cardinals entering the offseason. He is playing this year on the option year of the 7 year, $100 million contract he signed before the 2004 season. His impending free agency has been offseason topic #1 for all of baseball. It’s not every day that the best player of the last decade becomes available on the market. Because of that, it’s a topic that everyone has covered deeply, not just myself.

Manager Tony LaRussa also finds himself at the end of a contract this season. He does have an option for next year, but there always has to be the uncertainty until he says that he’s picking up that option.

Chris Carpenter is in the final year of his contract, but has a $15 million option for 2012. Adam Wainwright, who underwent Tommy John surgery in February, has missed this season and probably won’t make it back. That means his $21 million option that keeps him a Cardinal for the next two years doesn’t automatically vest, however the team has indicated they plan to pick up the option regardless.

Their catcher, Yadier Molina is in the final year of his last contract as well. He has an option for next season that could net him $7 million. However, there are rumors that they might renegotiate for more years and reduce that salary number for next year.

Lance Berkman, who is probably the best signing of the last offseason, will also be a free agent after his 1 year, $8 million contract expires. Berkman currently has the 25th highest batting average in the National League. He is also 3rd in the NL in home runs and 9th in runs batted in.

You also have a handful of guys that we traded for that are also eligible for free agency. Rafael Furcal has a $12 million team option for next year. Octavio Dotel has a $3.5 million option as well. The final piece would be starting pitcher Edwin Jackson, who many see as having a lot of potential as a pitcher, is also a free agent at the end of the year.

There’s also the arbitration question. Do you try to trade Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot before their final arbitration year? Do you non-tender them? Do you keep them around?

John Mozeliak will definitely earn his paycheck this winter with all the work he has ahead of him. It is the most busy that I can remember any offseason being.

The Cardinals officially enter next season with $41 million committed to Matt Holliday, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jaime Garcia. I think it’s safe to assume that the Cardinals will pick up the options of Wainwright and Molina, which pushes the number up to a cool $57 million.

In part two, I will discuss the contract options that are on the table for the Cardinals and what internal talent can we expect to contribute in 2012.

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