The St. Louis Cardinals continue to make small moves that will make the team deeper and stronger than the World Series squad of 2013, the latest being agreeing with veteran second baseman Mark Ellis on a one-year contract.
The basics on Ellis: Good glove, gets on base enough to not be worthless at the plate, will battle rookie Kolten Wong for playing time at second base.
Most importantly, it means the Cardinals added more depth and increased their flexibility throughout the roster. We saw the lack of bench depth in the World Series, when light-hitting Shane Robinson replaced the struggling Jon Jay in center field in Game 5 ... and hit second in the lineup.
Now look at the various options manager Mike Matheny will have:
Ellis and Wong at second (since Wong bats left-handed, you even have a perfect platoon if Wong performs).
Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay in center field. You can platoon them, or you can play Bourjos when you want defense or play Jay against tougher right-handed pitchers.
Craig can play right field, with top prospect Oscar Taveras probably ready after a month or two in Triple-A.
Robinson is still around as a decent backup outfielder.
The bench, a weakness in 2013, now looks like a potential strength.
Yes, the Cardinals lost Carlos Beltran and David Freese. In sliding Matt Carpenter over to third base and going with the Wong/Ellis combo at second, the Cardinals essentially replaced Freese's offense (.262/.340/.381) while upgrading defensively at two spots. Beltran hit .296/.339/.491 but the hope is Adams and Taveras can come close to replacing that offense. Peralta is a big upgrade offensively over Kozma, and Bourjos is an upgrade defensively in center.
There is one potential issue here. The Cardinals ranked 13th in the National League in home runs and Matt Holliday is now the only player on the roster who hit 20 in 2013. They hit .269 overall, but a record .330 with runners in scoring position. They led the NL in runs scored due to that timely hitting, results that won't necessarily be repeated in 2014. (The 2012 team hit .264 with RISP; the 2011 World Series champs hit .290.)
The offense may not score 783 runs again, but it wasn't likely to score 783 runs again, anyway. However, it gives Matheny better matchup possibilities. I don't think we'll be seeing Shane Robinson hitting second in a playoff game in 2014.