Look, things are going to be different now, but that's okay: There's no reason you can't go on to lead a perfectly fulfilling life now that you and Albert Pujols have broken up. You've got that big settlement, and so much else going on in your life anyway, and—hey, maybe you could take a class, or something. Just find a way to fill out your days, and see what happens. Here are some options:
Remember the Good Times: Okay, okay, way too soon.
Buy Something Awesome: Jose Reyes would have been the ultimate post-separation sportscar—incredibly fast, exciting, prone to annual breakdowns—but you were too busy trying to work things out with Pujols to sign the lease.
Prince Fielder is clearly a rebound guy, and at 28 I think questions about his long-term performance are a little overstated, depending on how overheated the market beneath Pujols gets; at that age even Mo Vaughn had his three best years ahead of him.
But I'd be a little more worried about his current production than what he's doing in the future; like a much better version of Ryan Howard, he's alternated actual outstanding seasons—2011 and 2009—with really-pretty-good seasons that look like outstanding ones because of how highly concentrated his skill-set is. If Pujols had a 130 OPS+ season you'd see it in an overarching decline—lower batting average, fewer doubles and home runs and RBI and runs scored. When Fielder does it he's still hitting 34 and 32 home runs, and who's looking at his batting average anyway?
After that—well, you run out of awesome things to buy pretty quickly.
Michael Cuddyer theoretically fits the Cardinals' needs; he's an above-average hitter whose bat plays in the outfield and who can stand at third when David Freese is hurt and second when Daniel Descalso is overmatched. But he'll be 33 next year and the rumored offers for his services stretch as high, already, as three years and $24 million, and unless the Cardinals' internal defensive metrics differ significantly from Total Zone, DRS, and UZR he's also a five to 15-run liability at every position he plays.
Aramis Ramirez looks way too much like your ex and it would make you sad.
Go Traveling: The last big free agent pitcher is Yu Darvish, whose final posting bid is impossible to predict—he's better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, but he also comes after Matsuzaka disappointed in Boston. You probably aren't interested, but in a world where Mark Buehrle's getting $60 million and skepticism of Japanese pitchers is at a recent high he might end up a relative bargain; if they're bent on trading up on Lohse, I'd rather you in on Darvish, 25 and coming off a 1.44 ERA, 12 K/9, and 7.67 K:BB, than any of the domestic pitchers.
In the outfield, Norichika Aoki began his career as Ichiro's replacement as Japan's top brash, undersized, slap-hitting outfielder, hitting .358/.435/.509 in 2010 before struggling with the rest of the league to adjust to the new ball in 2011. He's expected to be posted, too, but the Cardinals would have to be extremely confident in his ability to outhit Jon Jay to make a bid.
Meanwhile, in balmy Cuba: Yoenis Cespedes went viral after this truly hilarious movie trailer featuring a Star Wars crawl and Christopher Cross showed up on the internet. Expected to get Aroldis Chapman money, Cespedes would certainly be the most fun of all the Cardinals' various options—he's a burly-looking center fielder with great speed and one of those trying-to-kill-the-pitcher swings, and since we don't know what he could actually do in the Major Leagues we're able to imagine it. 50 home runs! And after each one, Christopher Cross's "Ride Like The Wind"! (Bless You Boys, our Tigers sister-blog, did a nice post about Cespedes, if you're interested.)
The Yankees just spent $2 million on Hiroyuki Nakajima's rights, which is too bad—he was, along with the unspectacular Tsuyoshi Nishioka, one of the big Japanese middle infielders of last year's posting season, and his low winning bid comes as a bit of a surprise to me.
Worst yet, the Yankees aren't even that interested—his low winning bid also apparently came as a bit of a surprise to them. If they trade him, as Buster Olney suggested, he'd be worth a look, but he's an odd fit as an American middle infielder—a defensive tweener with a little power and a lot of strikeouts, and, if you do a straight conversion of his offensive numbers, a poor man's Kaz Matsui or Tadahito Iguchi whose power numbers should probably be questioned. He wouldn't displace Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso so much as emerge as the best part of a three-way middle infield platoon.
Pretend Nothing Happened: Hey, you were active in the Rule 5 draft!
This year's pick is Erik Komatsu, an underpowered outfield tweener whose numbers in the minor leagues will remind you a lot of Jon Jay's—.277/.367/.382 last year as a 23-year-old in AA, .323/.413/.422 in the pitcher-friendly FSL the year before. (When he was 23 Jay was hitting .312/.382/.465 in the hitter-friendlier Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues; at 22 Komatsu has the edge.)
Komatsu looks more likely to run and, according to some scouts, less likely to stick in center field, and if he were right-handed he'd make a nice platoon partner for Jon Jay. Unfortunately, he's left-handed, so he's just an unproven clone of Jon Jay. I'd rather keep him around for free than promote Adron Chambers, but as a fifth outfielder he's very much a fifth outfielder, and the solution neither to lingering worries about Jay nor Allen Craig's suddenly important April absence.
The Pirates, meanwhile, took Charles Cutler in the AA portion of the draft, relieving the Cardinals of one of the offensive-minded catchers they had no interest in using. Cutler is the kind of player the Rule 5 draft was designed for—in 2011 he was stuck sharing time in Springfield, where he hit .333/.398/.475 in 62 games. He wasn't a prospect—he's the same age as Bryan Anderson despite not emerging as a sleeper prospect until 2009, which continues to amaze me—but he's got a chance of emerging as a useful backup, much like the real Bryan Anderson.