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Not a lot transpired for the Cardinals during the winter meetings this year, but fans should have no reason to grumble about it. In fact, it’s the organization’s lack of moves that has the club hurtling towards a very bright future. With a solid core of reasonably priced veteran talent and a wealth of high-ceiling arms and bats ready to come up from the minors, the Cards are poised to improve – possibly even dramatically – by just standing pat.

Wheeling and dealing coupled with rash signings just to make a move or appease a fan base is never a good policy, and GM John Mozeliak has actually done a fantastic job by not biting the baited hook that has been dangled in front of him the last two offseasons.
Had the Cards made some of the moves that the organization had been contemplating or gone head first into a trade for an oft-targeted prize, we probably wouldn’t be talking about a potential championship run in 2013. And we certainly wouldn’t be in the five or so years that follow.

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Albert Pujols. Much to St. Louis’ chagrin at the time, the Los Angeles Angles bucked up and gave our homegrown superstar a ridiculous ten-year, $260 million incentive-laden contract last offseason, forcing him out of the city that could have made him a legend. But after an un-Albert like season in California this year (.285-30-105-.859), Cards fans have every reason not only to dry their tears, but also crack a wry smile at the expense of Arte Moreno and his Angels.

Despite having exorbitantly more expendable income than the Cardinals, that contract will still be an albatross for the Angels organization. Pujols will likely continue to decline while the contract becomes a heavier and heavier financial burden with each passing year. He will make $16 million in 2013, but then it jumps to $23 million the next year and continues to go up all the way to $30 million in 2021… when he will be 41 years old. If you don’t think a contract like that can cripple a franchise’s financial flexibility, just take a look at the Yankees and the deal they gave A-Rod. He’s getting paid a king’s ransom to constantly rehab from a litany of injuries and under perform when he’s actually on the field. Don’t think the same thing won’t happen to Albert and the Angels. And just imagine how hamstrung the Cards would have been had they made that deal or even one of slightly lesser value on their modest, mid-market payroll. Not bringing Pujols back, as sad as it was at the time, may have been the best move this organization has made since the Lou Brock trade.

Fast forward a year and take a look at Kyle Lohse. Statistically the Cards best pitcher over the past two seasons, the team had no qualms about letting him walk the second they found out he wanted to test the free agent market. Yes, he had a fantastic year going 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, but it was a contract year and this isn’t the first time Lohse has stepped up his game to get paid. Some big market team will likely buck up and give the 34-year-old a 4-5 year deal at $15-20 million per. True, he got himself there and earned the payday, but the Cards wanted nothing to do with him at that price or anything close to it. They obviously know something moving forward that made their case for not willing to gamble on him with a price tag that fat attached.

And just as Albert moving on to sunnier pastures freed up money to sign Carlos Beltran and extend Yadier Molina, not resigning Lohse will give the talented youngsters waiting in the wings a shot to contribute at cost and allow the team the budget necessary to resign Adam Wainwright. Don’t you feel warmer in your belly knowing Waino will be fronting the rotation for the next 4-5 years rather than Lohse? Thought so.

Finally, it was nice to see Mozeliak keep his sure footing during the barrage of potential packages floating around for James Shields. The Cards have been knocking on Tampa’s door about him repeatedly for some time now and Cardinal Nation should have no regrets that he won’t be toeing the rubber in STL the next two seasons. The Royals gave up their top prospect (Wil Meyers) and three of their top 11 overall to get Shields and Wade Davis. A terrible move on the part of St. Louis Jr. as they mortgaged their future for two pitchers that may potentially upgrade a disastrous rotation. Even if their pitching improves because of the deal it still likely won’t be enough to get them any higher than third in their fairly weak division.

Just think if that was Oscar Taveras, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthall and Matt Adams heading to Tampa Bay for Shields and Davis. Sure Shields would be a nice addition as a solid number two behind Waino or maybe even a number three behind Waino and Carp, but the sacrifice would be far too great. The instant bump in the rotation would never come close to matching the potential of those four prospects. Oscar Taveras is the coolest thing since pockets, and losing him would likely send me into a spiraling depression that would make me inconsolable for months.

So, on behalf of Cardinal Nation and my sanity, thanks Mo. Way to stand your ground

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