The St. Louis Cardinals were escorted into the offseason short of winning their 12th World Series championship. Looking ahead, the core of the team remains intact, and the Cardinals will need to make some cost-effective adjustments to their roster this winter.

Big spending is out of the question. Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. hasn’t operated like that since he took the reigns of the organization in 1996.

However, expect the Cardinals to make some low-key moves to patch up a few minor leaks. The Cardinals are responsible for just $82.8 million in contracts for next season, according to Baseball Reference. That leaves a good amount of wiggle room for the general manager John Mozeliak to work with. 

Re-signing reliever and former closer Jason Motte should be near the top of Mozeliak’s offseason to-do list. Motte spent the better part of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. The righty struggled this season with a gaudy 4.68 ERA. His velocity wasn’t there, nor his punch-out power.

In fairness to Motte, it is not unusual for pitchers to struggle after returning from reconstructive elbow surgery.

During spring training 2011, Adam Wainwright was lost for the season after blowing out his right elbow. Following surgery and extensive rehab, Wainwright returned to the mound in 2012 but was hardly the same. His compiled a 4.56 ERA in his first 17 starts. He finished the season with a record of 14-13 and a 3.94 ERA.

It’s also paramount to realize how big of a factor Motte was for the Cardinals in 2011-12. He was dominant in the 2011 postseason and saved five games, including Game 7 over Texas to clinch the Cardinals’ 11th title.

Motte followed that remarkable playoff run by tying Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel for the National League lead in saves with 42. The Cardinals rewarded him with a two-year, $12 million deal following the 2012 season.

Obviously Motte didn‘t live up to the contract because he was shelved. But the Cardinals shouldn’t give up on him. Instead, they should re-sign Motte to a short-term deal and see how he performs. 

A utility infielder is another area the Cardinals need.

The Cardinals received nothing from Mark Ellis, whom they signed to a one-year, $5 million deal last winter. Ellis was to provide insurance in case Kolten Wong struggled at second base.

Things didn’t go Ellis’ way. He dealt with an injury early in the season and never got going. Still, Ellis remains an above-average fielder with seven defensive runs saved, according to Fan Graphs.

Wong took off and became a staple of the lineup during the second half of the season. Ellis was excluded from the playoff roster in favor of Pete Kozma, who spent the majority of 2014 with Triple-A Memphis. Ellis is a classy guy, a grizzled veteran with poise and wisdom. He’s a good clubhouse presence. But the Cardinals can look elsewhere for another infielder.

One name that comes to mind—if the price is right—is Rickie Weeks, the longtime second baseman for Milwaukee. The Brewers declined Weeks’ $11.5 million option for 2015, making him a free agent.

Obviously, the interest in Weeks all depends on cost. It wouldn’t hurt to gauge the temperature on Weeks, who is in the downside of his career. 

Otherwise the Cardinals could opt to go with Kozma or another look outside the organization for infield help. Though, the market for middle infielders at a controlled price is rather slim. 

Elsewhere, Yadier Molina isn’t getting any younger. Additional off-days will be in order next season to avoid injury, and the Cardinals need to find a reliable and productive option to spell the future Hall of Famer.

A.J. Pierzynksi’s production as a member of the Cardinals was anything but convincing. In 95 plate appearances (including postseason), the veteran managed a skinny .239 average with a .295 on-base percentage and stranded 40 runners.

Defensively, Pierzynski was vulnerable. After joining the Cardinals, opponents were a perfect 13 of 13 in stolen-base attempts.

Pierzynski’s edgy personality never came into question while with the Cardinals. In fact, the club needed some flare and Pierzynski provided it.

But the Cardinals will be better off going a different route for next season.

Geovany Soto, who spent time with Texas and Oakland this season, is a free agent. Last season Soto posted a caught-stealing rate of .435 percent in 24 games. By comparison, stealers were 50 of 61 off Pierzynski last season. 

The sample size for Soto is small in terms of production last season but all isn’t lost on the veteran backstop. Also, Soto missed 10 weeks of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee. The Rangers traded Soto to Oakland for cash in late August. With the Athletics, Soto batted .262 in 42 at-bats. 

Finally, the Cardinals will look for left-handed relievers. Kevin Siegrist was injured during the postseason and stumbled a bit after a stellar rookie season in 2013. Internally, the Cardinals have Sam Freeman, the 27-year-old hard thrower. But Freeman will have to earn confidence from manager Mike Matheny in 2015.

Zach Duke appears to be a good fit for the Cardinals. Duke enjoyed a solid season with the Brewers. In 74 appearances, Duke crafted a 2.45 ERA while holding left-handed hitters to a .198 average. He also held right-handed hitters to a .242, which is impressive from a left-handed reliever. 

Mozeliak and his staff will be busy this offseason, and these are a few cost-effective moves the Cardinals can make as free agency begins.

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