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What is the state of the St. Louis Cardinals roster entering the offseason?

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals lost in the NLDS for the first time since 2009. In 2010, of course, the Cardinals somehow did not qualify for the postseason despite getting 6.8 fWAR from Albert Pujols, 6.2 from Matt Holliday, 5.6 from Adam Wainwright, 4.0 from Colby Rasmus, 3.3 from Chris Carpenter (in 235 IP), and 2.7 from Jaime Garcia (in 163 1/3 IP). The Cardinals have not had their season end before the final game of the NLCS since that season five years ago. So the waiting we're about to do until the Hot Stove is officially lit and begins warming might be a bit foreign. Here's a roster primer to digest while we wait on the contractual status of the various Cardinals for 2016, along with some important dates for those who don't have guaranteed contracts.

Guaranteed Contracts

Here are the salaries the Cardinals have guaranteed players for 2016, from highest to lowest:

  • Adam Wainwright, $19.5 million
  • Matt Holliday, $17 million
  • Yadier Molina, $14.2 million
  • Jhonny Peralta, $12.5 million
  • Lance Lynn, $7.5 million
  • Jon Jay, $6.85 million
  • Matt Carpenter, $6.5 million
  • Jordan Walden, $3.675 million
  • Aledmys Diaz, $2.5 million
  • Total:  $90.725 million (including Jaime Garcia's $500,000 buyout)
These are the veterans who make up a large chunk of payroll. One wonders if general manager John Mozeliak might explore moving some of these salaries. The problem is that many of these players are coming off of injury-plagued seasons that have likely sapped their value as trade chips. Only Diaz, Carpenter, and Peralta weren't injured this season, even though Peralta looked like he was playing hurt by season's end. Many are calling for the Cards to move Jay, but his value is likely at an all-time low after failing to heal properly after offseason wrist surgery and then batting .210/.306/.257 (.253 wOBA, 57 wRC+).

Team Control:  League Minimum

  • Pete Kozma
  • Carlos Martinez
  • Michael Wacha
  • Kolten Wong
  • Kevin Siegrist
  • Randal Grichuk
  • Tommy Pham
  • Stephen Piscotty
  • Greg Garcia
  • Tyler Lyons
  • Marco Gonzales
  • Tim Cooney
  • Ed Esley
  • Miguel Socolovich
  • Mitch Harris
  • Sam Tuivalala
All of these players exception for one still have options remaining, which means that they can start 2016 with Triple-A Memphis and the Cardinals will not risk losing them. A player uses an option per year when he is shifted from MLB camp in spring training to minor-league camp. If he was not invited to MLB camp, then the club burns up an option year by moving him from the minors to the majors and back to the minors. A team can shift a player back and forth between the big leagues and the minors as many times as they want during the season and only one option is burned. The player without any options remaining? Kozma, who did not make the postseason roster. Given the defensive positions he plays and how worn down Peralta and Wong looked at times in 2015 due to manager Mike Matheny's understandable reluctance to player Kozma, one wonders how much longer he'll be in the St. Louis organization.

Team Control:  Arbitration Eligible

  • Brandon Moss, Arb 4. Moss did not have a good 2015 even though he clubbed nearly 20 homers. But it's worth keeping in mind that he underwent offseason hip surgery and wasn't able to do his normal offseason workout. In fact, he wasn't even able to do squats in the weight room until August. The Cardinals gave up top pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky to get a year and two months of Moss. It's unlikely they'll give up on his after two months, non-tender him, and allow him to become a free agent without getting anything in return.
  • Steve Cishek, Arb 3. The arbitration process overvalues saves perhaps more than any other stat. Cishek is a beneficiary of this reality. The former Miami closer made $6.65 million in 2015 thanks to his saves total. He'll make at least 80% of that in 2016 because of the CBA rules regarding arbitration salaries. That means the Cardinals are unlikely to tender him a contract. Mozeliak doesn't like paying for relievers as a general rule. It's unlikely he'll pay a premium for a bad one when he can simply walk away and let the righty become a free agent.
  • Peter Bourjos, Arb 3. Matheny rarely played Bourjos in 2015, when the speedster made $1.65 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Bourjos will receive a raise this year, but will nonetheless likely be a player who brings more value than his salary figure to a team. It's unlikely that Mozeliak lets Bourjos become a free agents by not tendering him a contract. It seems more likely that the Cardinals might explore a trade before the arbitration process begins.
  • Tony Cruz, Arb 2. If the Cardinals did not non-tender Cruz after they signed veteran releasee A.J. PIerzynski to reliever him of the burden of catching everyday after Yadier Molina injured his hand last season, it seems unlikely that they'll do so now. Cruz players well enough in very limited time this season. Given the high marks folks in the organization give him for strategizing, he seems a good bet to be back in 2016, no matter how much fans want to see him gone.
  • Trevor Rosenthal, Arb 1. Rosenthal will be offered arbitration and will make a decent amount in 2016 via the process.
  • Matt Adams, Arb 1. Adams will be offered arbitration. He's coming off an injury-plagued year, which hurt his production. Adams will be cheap, which is good since the Cards don't yet really know what they have in him.
  • Seth Maness, Arb 1. The Cardinals will tender Maness a contract and his 2016 salary will seem a strangely lower than Rosenthal's because Maness is a middle reliever who doesn't notch saves.

Club Options

  • Jaime Garcia, $11.5 million ($500,000 buyout). Last offseason, Justin Masterson got a $9.5 million contract from the Red Sox last offseason after he was both injured and ineffective in 2014. Pitching depth is important, as we once again learned in 2015. Garcia is a very good pitcher when healthy, which he was for the bulk of 2015. His option is worth picking up given his skill and the free-agent market for broken starters.
  • Jonathan Broxton, $9 million ($2 million buyout). When the Brewers acquired Broxton from the Reds, his buyout doubled to $2 million. The Cardinals got $3 million from the Brewers in the Broxton trade, according to Joe Sherman of the New York Post, and $2 million of that is contingent on the Cardinals declining Broxton's option. Meaning Milwaukee will foot the bill for the buyout. That seems likely.

Free Agents

  • Jason Heyward. Sign him, Cardinals. Please.
  • John Lackey. The question here is whether to give Lackey a qualifying offer. $15.8 million is a steep price for an aged veteran coming off a season with an ERA that defied his peripherals. Giving Lackey the multi-year contract he'll seek in free agency would likely be foolish, given the money and his age.
  • Randy Choate. I don't think there's a world in the multiverse in which Choate is a Cardinal in 2016.
  • Matt Belisle. I'm interested to see what happens with Belisle. The Cards know more about his forearm than anyone. Might they sign him to a make-good deal as righthanded relief depth?
  • Mark Reynolds. With Piscotty and Moss as first base/outfield options and Adams projected as a healthy option at first, it seems unlikely that the Cardinals will sign him for 2016.
  • Carlos Villanueva. I could see the Cardinals bringing Villanueva back if the price is right. But I'd prefer they just go with Tyler Lyons or another internal option in the mop-up roll.