After the Trade for Peter Bourjos & Signing of Jhonny Peralta, What Does the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals Roster Matrix Look Like?

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With veterans leaving via free agency and the trade of David Freese and Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk, the St. Louis Cardinals had a lot of payroll flexibility entering 2014. They used it to sign shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

On Sunday, the St. Louis Cardinals ended their search for a shortstop. The club finalized a contract with free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta that spans four years and is worth $53 million. The particulars of how much el Birdos will pay Peralta in each of the four years he is under contract with the club were not available as of Sunday night. The Cardinals have a press conference scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Monday to discuss the signing, which may divulge such particulars (including any bonuses Peralta can earn).

As general manager, John Mozeliak has had to balance the demands of winning now and planning for the future. His approach to upgrading the big-league club at shortstop reflected these twin, sometimes dueling priorities. With these considerations, it's no surprise that Mozeliak took on the task of acquiring a shortstop by casting a wide net--exploring trades as well as free agents.

In the early weeks of the MLB Hot Stove, the Cardinals reportedly contacted the Colorado Rockies about a trade for all-world shortstop Troy Tulowitski, spoke with the Texas Rangers about Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, called the Oakland A's to check on the availability of Jed Lowrie, rejected the Baltimore Orioles' proposal of Shelby Miller for J.J. Hardy, touched base with the Arizona Diamondbacks about a shortstop-for-pitching deal, and explored the possibility of a bigger trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that included Erick Aybar. There's no question Mozeliak performed his due diligence on the trade front.

In the end, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals front office found the asking price in potential shortstop trades to be be too high for the organization's taste:

"For us, the asking price in the trade market seemed very prohibitive," Mozeliak said about the market for shortstops before the official announcement of the Peralta deal.

That the Angels wanted one of the Cardinals' young starting pitchers in exchange for Aybar and the O's saw fit to demand Miller for Hardy gives us an idea of how pricy the shortstop trade market was in the late October and early November. It's no surprise, then, that the St. Louis front office honed in on free agents to improve the team at shortstop.

Also making the notion of paying big money to a free agent more palatable than trading young, cost-controlled players is the fact that St. Louis shed a lot of payroll with the close of the 2013 season. Many a veteran Cardinal either retired or had his salary come off the books when he filed for free agency. The following chart contains the salary the Cardinals shed after the 2013 season due to expiring contracts.

PLAYER

POSITION

‘13 GAMES

fWAR

rWAR

SALARY

Carlos Beltran

RF

145

2.0

2.4

- $13MM

Edward Mujica

RP

65

0.0

1.5

- $3.2MM

Jake Westbrook

SP

21

-0.2

-0.6

- $8.75MM

Chris Carpenter

SP

0

0.0

0.0

- $12.5MM

Rafael Furcal

SS

0

0.0

0.0

- $7.5MM

TOTAL

-

231

1.8

3.3

- $44.95MM

The fact that the Cardinals had nearly $45 million in 2013 salary come off the books is not the only consideration for the front office. A few players have raises coming their way. Many are obligations found in guaranteed contracts:

PLAYER

POSITION

‘13 SALARY

‘14 SALARY

‘14-’13 Diff.

Adam Wainwright

SP

$12MM

$19.5MM

+ $7.5MM

Jason Motte

RP

$4.5MM

$7.5MM

+ $3MM

Jaime Garcia

SP

$5.875MM

$7.875MM

+ $2MM

Randy Choate

RP

$1.5MM

$3MM

+ $1.5MM

Yadier Molina

C

$14.2MM

$15.2MM

+ $1MM

Allen Craig

1B/OF

$1.75MM

$2.75MM

+ $1MM

TOTAL

-

$39.825MM

$55.825MM

+ $16MM

In addition to the raises players will received between 2013 and 2014 due to guaranteed contracts, there are the arbitration-elible players who will also receive raises in salary. MLB Trade Rumors has developed a projection system for arbitration-eligible salaries. Using the MLBTR projected salaries for the Cards' arbitration-eligible players, the club will likely see the following increases in player salaries:

PLAYER

POSITION

‘13 SALARY

‘14 SALARY

‘14-’13 Diff.

Jon Jay

CF

$524K

$3.4MM

+ $2.876MM

John Axford

RP

$5MM

$5.7MM

+ $700K

Daniel Descalso

IF

$511K

$1.2MM

+ $689K

TOTAL

-

$6.035MM

$10.3MM

+ $4.265MM

I think it's a sure thing the Cardinals sign Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso to contracts in the neighborhood of the MLBTR projections. However, I think there's virtually no chance John Axford pitches with an "STL" on his cap in 2014 while earning a $5.7 million salary. Even if he signs for less, a full season of Axford is going to cost more for the Cardinals relative to the pro-rated share of his $5-million salary the club paid in 2013 than what is shown in this chart. We'll move ahead assuming a $5.7 million 2014 salary for Axford even though he's likely to make around $3 million if he's pitching for the Cardinals in 2014.

Two candidates for a pay raise via arbitration were David Freese and Fernando Salas. MLBTR projected Freese to earn an increase in pay from his $3.15 million 2013 salary to approximately $4.4 million in 2014; or, a $1.25 million increase. MLBTR forecasted Salas to go from making $512,000 to about $700,000--a $188,000 increase. The aribtration-eligible Bourjos, according to MLBTR, is likely to earn approximately $1.1 million in 2014. Friday's trade resulted in a net loss of somewhere around $3.488 million off the Cardinals' 2014 payroll.

With the guaranteed 2014 raises, projected raises for arbitration eligible players, and the Freese and Salas for Bourjos and Grichuk trade, the Cardinals had a total of about $32.438 million in payroll to play with.

Looking at the free agent shortstop class of this Hot Stove, targeting Peralta makes sense since he has a track record of health far superior to that of the other premiere free agent shortstop, Stephen "Dirt" Drew. Further augmenting Peralta's appeal is the fact that signing him did not cost the Cardinals their first-round pick in next year's amateur draft and the money it contributes to the club's 2014 draftee signing pool.

As things stand now--and this will change before the amateur draft--the Cardinals have the No. 31 pick and No. 43 pick. The Cards moved up one spot in the compensatory sandwich round when the New York Yankees signed Brian McCann, who turned down the Atlanta Braves' qualifying offer. Depending on where Kendrys Morales, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Hiroki Kuroda, Ervin Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Mike Napoli sign, the Redbirds' compensation pick for the departed Carlos Beltran could move still closer to the first round.

For now, we'll just use the average annual value (AAV) of Peralta's four-year deal to fill out the 2014 roster matrix. After last week's 40-man roster machinations, trades, and Sunday's signing, it looks like this:

STARTERS

BENCH

ROTATION

BULLPEN

C - Y. Molina

$14.2MM

OF - J. Jay

$3.4MM

RHP - A. Wainwright

$19.5MM

RHP - J. Motte

$7.5MM

1B - M. Adams

$500K

IF - D. Descalso

$1.2MM

LHP - J. Garcia

$7.875MM

RHP - J. Axford

$5.7MM

2B - K. Wong

$500K

OF - S. Robinson

$500K

RHP - L. Lynn

$513K

LHP - R. Choate

$3.0MM

3B - M. Carpenter

$504K

IF - P. Kozma

$500K

RHP - J. Kelly

$500K

RHP - T. Rosenthal

$500K

SS - J. Peralta

$13.25MM

C - T. Cruz

$500K

RHP - S. Miller

$500K

LHP - K. Siegrist

$500K

LF - M. Holliday

$17MM

OF - O. Taveras

$500K

RHP - M. Wacha

$500K

RHP - S. Maness

$500K

CF - P. Bourjos

$1.1MM

WIG - T. Wigginton

$2.5MM


RHP - C. Martinez

$500K

RF - A. Craig

$2.75MM




Total

$49.304MM

Total

$13.1MM

Total

$29.388MM

Total

$18.2MM

Right now, it appears that the total 2014 payroll for the Cardinals will be in the neighborhood of $109.992 million. Depending on how the Cardinals pay Peralta in 2014 and given the club's practice of paying players eligible for the league minimum on par with their service time, payroll may very well be over $110 million. It will be interesting to see if St. Louis front office chooses to go into spring training with the current players or signs another bench bat during the Hot Stove.

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