While nothing has been said about Rafael Furcal returning to the St. Louis Cardinals, if the right deal doesn’t come along, it could be the smartest option.

The free agent market for this year is extremely slim—and there’s little doubt GM John Mozeliak would rather spend dollars (which they have) than prospects (which they cherish).

Scott Boras, the agent of Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew, hinted to Derrick Goold of STLToday.com that his client is interested in the Cardinals. However, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Red Sox will make a qualifying offer to Drew.

Even if Drew doesn’t accept the offer, he may still go for a price and number of years beyond a range the Cardinals would view as reasonable.

With his injury history, three years would be a stretch to give to Drew.

Among the other free agents available are Jhonny Peralta and Brendan Ryan.

Peralta’s 2013 numbers would make him a solid fit, but there’s still a chance the Detroit Tigers could hang on to him as an outfielder, with Peralta telling John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press he’d like to stay with the organization. With that said, such a fit with the Tigers seems unlikely, having traded for Jose Iglesias.

Most likely, he will be looking for a multi-year deal upwards of $6 million. That doesn’t put him out of reach for the Cardinals, but they would likely be reluctant to pick up a player fresh off of a PED suspension.

Brendan Ryan is also available, but they already tried that. Great glove, no bat. In fact, Ryan batted 20 points lower than Pete Kozma.

In the end, the answer could come with a year (or half year) from Furcal. Here are a few thoughts on the subject.

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