ST. LOUIS — Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Monday afternoon the pain of losing the World Series remains five days later.
“There’s still a real bad taste in our mouths,” Matheny said at a season-sendoff press conference at Busch Stadium. “I was asked quite a few times when are we going to stop and think about what we were able to accomplish this year. There were a lot of great things accomplished, but the sting of losing a World Series doesn’t leave as quickly as I thought it would.”
General manager John Mozeliak, however, said he has moved on from the setback to the Red Sox and is clearly focused on 2014. What he sees should make his manager as well as everyone in Cardinal National feel better.
With a pitching staff stocked with dynamic, young arms and a roster core as strong as any team, the Cardinals’ future is as promising as the past season.
“Really excited about where we are,” Mozeliak said during his meeting with the press. “I feel that we’re in a good spot. Our core is in place, but we have to find those right additions.”
Mozeliak kicked off his hot-stove season by saying the club indeed has made Carlos Beltran a qualifying offer. Beltran has a week to accept the offer, which would be for one year at $14.1 million. If he declines, as expected, the Cardinals would reap a compensatory draft pick when Beltran signs elsewhere.
Based on Mozeliak’s remarks, a return of Beltran doesn’t sound likely.
“Reality is, when you look at the depth of what we have and what we have coming, trying to find ample amount of playing time for all these individuals involved, I’m not sure how happy he would be,” Mozeliak said. “Trying to find that right balance would be difficult.”
Other takeaways from the two media sessions, which totaled about an hour and five minutes.
— Count on a new shortstop in 2014. As much as the club stood behind Pete Kozma’s defense, the Cardinals will be seeking an offensive upgrade. Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta are the best available on the free-agent market, which tells me a trade is more likely.
Among the shortstops you can count on hearing in speculation: Troy Tulowitzki, J.J. Hardy, Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar, Asdrubal Cabrera and Everth Cabrera.
“I was always reluctant to say that was a huge need because we were scoring runs,” Mozeliak said. “I felt we were getting by as long as we were in a position to catch the ball. Recognizing that, if we can find the right combination in a player where you still get defense and you can upgrade at the offensive standpoint, that would make sense.”
— Trevor Rosenthal’s wishes to start will be put on hold at least for another year. Matheny said Rosenthal will enter spring training as the closer, as well he should after a dominant season capped by 11 2/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs.
“This is a touchy topic,” Matheny admitted. “We know Trevor would like to be a starter someday and we don’t deny the fact that could realistically happen. He’d do a terrific job at it. Right now, if you look at our club and what we have and what we have a need for, that bullpen is all based around our closer. We have a lot of confidence in how he has been able to handle that position that we move forward with him being that guy.”
Jason Motte, the 2012 closer, should be ready to compete for a spot in the bullpen after Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
— Allen Craig should be good to go as the everyday right fielder, which leaves first base to Matt Adams. Don’t start packaging Adams in any blockbusters, either. The Cardinals value — and need — his power, considering he still remains two years from arbitration.
— Oscar Taveras remains on the front-burner in the team’s planning for next season. Mozeliak didn’t rule out the club’s top prospect from manning center field despite losing much of the past season to a bad ankle.
“I would say the biggest negative was from a defensive standpoint,” Mozeliak said. “When you think about him trying to play center field, he didn’t get a lot of reps. From an offensive standpoint, he can step in and contribute. The big question is whether he can play defensively and how confident are we with him in center.”
— Kolten Wong will be given a chance to win the second-base job in spring training. His chances hinge in large part on the situation of third baseman David Freese. If Freese is not traded — and his value is at a low — he likely will compete with Wong for playing time. Whoever plays better will win a starter’s job with Matt Carpenter handling whichever position is left.
— Payroll, estimated at $115 million in 2013, is not a big concern. The club will clear more than $40 million in the expiring contracts of Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal, Jake Westbrook and Edward Mujica.
Mozeliak said the 2014 payroll could go up from this season, or it could decline. He had not thought about it much, he said. And yes, he was smiling. The future indeed looks promising. You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.