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Cardinals news and notes: Kolten Wong, young pitching, and the underdog role

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Despite recent references to the Cardinals' aging core, the team's youth was the primary focus of yesterday's batch of VEB articles.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

As you may or may not have heard, Cardinals 2015 right fielder Jason Heyward signed with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. I recognize that this is not a topic which has been covered very extensively on Viva El Birdos, which prompted a chorus of angst about the lack of coverage of Jason Heyward. But, anyway, it happened.

And in the aftermath of Heyward's departure to Chicago came a flurry of theories as to why he left, considering that the contract he signed with the Cubs was reportedly worth less guaranteed money than the contract on the table with the Cardinals. A prime theory derived from some of Heyward's earliest comments with the Cubs, in which he said...

Personally, I think most people are overthinking Heyward's motives. With the Cubs, Heyward has an opt-out after three seasons, and although he may make less money over the course of the full eight years of the contract if he does not opt out of his contract with the Cubs, he has the ability to make even more money very quickly by playing his home games in Wrigley Field.

Regardless, the latest crop of Viva El Birdos posts would seem to contradict any concerns that the Cardinals lack exciting young talent. While the Cubs certainly are no slouches in the department, there is a great deal to be said about the young players the Cardinals have to offer.

The next men up in the rotation

Joe Schwarz wrote about the depth in the Cardinals rotation. After the signing of Mike Leake, it would be tempting to look simply at Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Leake as the beginning and ending of the rotation. But as Joe observes, pitchers are too fragile to be trusted as ironclad certainties. As such, Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, and Marco Gonzales could very well end up in pivotal roles in the Cardinals rotation if something goes wrong with the current rotation.

Kolten Wong as a leadoff hitter?

Kolten Wong, who is still nearly nine months away from turning 26, has apparently lobbied Mike Matheny about batting leadoff for the Cardinals in 2016. Craig Edwards broke down the numbers and weighed whether or not Wong would be a good option as a leadoff hitter. With Matt Carpenter's 2015 emergence as a viable power hitter, who should bat leadoff is now an open question, and unlike the relatively slow but OBP-heavy Carpenter, Wong is closer to the prototypical speed often associated with batting first.

Potential extensions for Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez

Ben Markham dissected what it would take for the Cardinals to extend their twenty-four year-old starters Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. And after an offseason in which many fans believe that the team did not sufficiently spend in the free agent market, extending Wacha or Martinez could be a logical step. Although extending current players may not be quite as exciting as luring new players to Busch Stadium, players of the caliber of Wacha or Martinez are not easy to secure long-term, and thus the prospect of extending them is certainly intriguing.

The Cardinals as an underdog

Anyway, whether or not Heyward's rationale is completely accurate, the Cardinals will enter 2016 as underdogs to the Chicago Cubs (and potentially the Pittsburgh Pirates, depending on how the remainder of the offseason shakes out), and Alex Crisafulli discussed the brave new world of the Cardinals as an underdog. While it may not be a familiar role for the recent era of Cardinals baseball, it could be what we are in store for in 2016. But there is a big difference between being an underdog and being bad, and being the former is a nice alternative to being the latter.

A rundown of the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up and Cardinals Caravan

Last weekend, the Cardinals held their annual Winter Warm-Up and Cardinals Caravan events. As a cynical blogger who only writes out of his mom's basement, or whatever the exact terminology of that stereotype states, I attended neither, but thanks to Lil Scooter's synopsis of the event, I feel like I attended it myself. As a lifelong resident of a twenty-or-so mile radius surrounding Busch Stadium, I often lack an appreciation for those who support the Cardinals from afar. But as St. Louis is a somewhat below-average MLB market, it is vital that the Cardinals maintain their fan support across the Midwest, and events like these assure this happens.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, and if you're in the Greater St. Louis area or another area which incurred snowfall, drive carefully (actually, drive carefully no matter where you are).