General manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny met with reporters Monday for the first time since losing a six-game World Series to the Red Sox last week. Mozeliak says he expects the 36-year-old Beltran to seek a multiyear contract elsewhere.
"We never want to close doors," Mozeliak said. "Reality is when you look at the depth, trying to find ample playing time, I'm not sure how happy he will be."
Beltran topped 600 plate appearances both seasons with the Cardinals, needing just occasional rest for his surgically repaired knees. He batted .296 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs this year, and had several big hits in the postseason, too.
"I reminded him what an incredible season he had for us," Matheny said. "We don't know how this whole thing is going to play out."
Mozeliak said there's a chance the payroll will be lower at the start of next season, with big contracts for Beltran, Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal and Jake Westbrook coming off the books. Given the right circumstances, he said the payroll could go up.
At the top of the offseason wish list is an offensive upgrade at shortstop over the slick-fielding, light-hitting combo of Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso. The Cardinals expect to hear from teams interested in their prospects.
"We do have the resources," Mozeliak said. "Certainly, I don't want to close any doors today."
Rookie Trevor Rosenthal opens spring training as the closer ahead of Jason Motte, who'll be eased back into the mix coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him all of 2013. Mozeliak said it was "hard to imagine" a better closer than Rosenthal the way he finished the year.
"If I had a bet, I would say he's probably going to get a lot of playing time for us," Mozeliak said.
Neither Matheny nor Mozeliak expressed any regrets about using postseason roster spots for rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller and deposed closer Edward Mujica, who had 35 saves before hitting the wall the final month. The Cardinals left the 22-year-old Miller out of the postseason rotation due to concerns about the innings load from a full season as the fifth starter.
They wanted Miller on the roster just in case, assuring him he's a big part of next year's rotation.
Mujica got the nod in appreciation for services rendered, with Mozeliak noting "there is some loyalty in the decision-making process."
"We were prepared, we knew what we were trying to accomplish," Matheny said. "We do what we believe is best for this team so we can go back and sleep at night and realize we did the right thing."
Among the healthy arms who didn't make the cut were lefties Sam Freeman and Tyler Lyons. They could have added third catcher Rob Johnson, freeing up backup catcher Tony Cruz as a pretty good bat off the bench.
"Look at Chief's contribution," Mozeliak said, using Mujica's nickname. "I think it would have been very difficult to keep him off."
The Cardinals know Rosenthal wants to be a starter but they're loaded in that department with rookie Michael Wacha near the top of the list, right behind 19-game winner Adam Wainwright, coming off a phenomenal postseason. Also in the mix are Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, along with youngsters Miller and Carlos Martinez, plus Matheny thought Jaime Garcia was almost ready to return from shoulder surgery at the end of the season.
Mozeliak anticipates no offseason surgeries, and believes Craig's left mid-foot sprain will be healed in about a month.