Here's why I worry about the Cardinals' plans to upgrade in the middle infield: Short of the best-case-scenario options, like Uggla—
—and can we talk, briefly, about the Marlins' apparent desire to see Colby Rasmus in a deal for Uggla, having traded him since for Omar Infante and a sort of supercharged version of Tyler Norrick? It's clear in their handling of Cameron Maybin that the Marlins don't place a premium on toolsy centerfielders from the 2005 draft, but Rasmus was the same hitter as Uggla last year and isn't heading into free agency.
It's not that I think the Marlins are stupid, it's that I literally can't see how that course of events transpired in the real world. They couldn't possibly have narrowed their choices to either a cost-controlled center fielder coming off an .859 OPS or a 29-year-old second baseman who's emerged triumphantly over the last three years as a .750 OPS guy.
I worry because short of the best-case-scenario options, like Uggla—and can we talk, bri... oh, right—or Stephen Drew or, maybe most fantastically, perpetual Mets-fan punching bag Jose Reyes, the Cardinals' plans to upgrade in the middle infield involve a lot of players whose career paths closely resemble those of the players they'd be replacing. Juan Uribe, Miguel Tejada, and Edgar Renteria have each spent parts of the last three to five years floating at or around replacement level.
I say this as someone who enjoyed Renteria's World Series run and who loves Juan Uribe's ridiculous home run swing. The Cardinals wouldn't be importing stability by signing any of the free agents they've targeted so far; they'd just be adding another player who might have an above-average season.
Which is fine—that's my preferred method for the management of the back of the rotation and the middle of the bullpen. But that's why it's so crucial that the Cardinals keep Brendan Ryan around if they don't upgrade with a higher-end shortstop—because all the other guys they're auditioning are just cleverly disguised copies of Brendan Ryan. My worry is that the Cardinals end up coming out of this offseason having traded one Brendan Ryan for another.