While watching the Boston Red Sox celebrate wasn't exactly the way the St. Louis Cardinals hoped the 2013 season would end, the year was still an overall success for the National League champs. And though it would be easy for Cardinals GM John Mozeliak to feel satisfied with his club, complacency is one of the biggest enemies of excellent teams, and one of St. Louis' primary goals this offseason needs to be fixing its hole at shortstop.
St. Louis is one of the model organizations in baseball, but shortstop was a constant issue for the Cardinals and one that they did little to remedy. While it was bad luck that Rafael Furcal needed Tommy John surgery and the missed season, the club didn't do much to put together a good Plan B. The Plan B it went with, in this case, was hoping that former first-round pick Pete Kozma had solved his primary weakness -- hitting the ball.
Kozma played solid defense at short but hit just .217/.275/.273, and no amount of great defense can overcome that. The Cardinals may have successfully made it to Game 6 of the World Series with Kozma playing shortstop, but they made it there despite him, not because of him. Teams that accept weaknesses or being "good enough" are teams that ultimately encounter nasty doses of reality.
The good news is that the Cardinals are not without resources. The team is financially successful, has a deep farm system and has more starting pitchers than it knows what to do with. There are many potential solutions at shortstop, as outlined in the list below, including an ideal scenario that Mozeliak should be trying to make happen.
The grand slam: Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki is the best, most realistic shortstop addition available for the Cardinals (i.e., no "Jurassic Park"-esque experiments with Honus Wagner DNA) but, not surprisingly, the toughest one to pull off. Colorado ownership has expressed a desire to hang onto Tulowitzki (and Carlos Gonzalez) and increase payroll, but the Rockies are realistically not looking like a team that's going to be dangerous in 2014 or 2015, and the Cards have the need and the arms to make Colorado reconsider.