With Albert Pujols leaving via free agency to the Angels, the Cardinals' biggest offseason question has been answered -- though not in a favorable way. The club now has money to spend and needs to spend it on, and with Pujols' status resolved, it can get to work on doing just that.
The Cardinals departed the Hilton Anatole without making any moves on their Major League roster, aside from selecting outfielder Erik Komatsu in the Rule 5 Draft. They saw one other likely target besides Pujols, Octavio Dotel, reach agreement with the Tigers, but most of the other options for them remain available.
Those options could include an addition at shortstop, perhaps a return by Rafael Furcal or even a pursuit of Jimmy Rollins. The Cardinals could look at adding an outfield bat, with Lance Berkman likely to move to first base and Allen Craig's health in some doubt for the start of the season. And they'll quite certainly pursue at least one relief pitcher, a left-hander.
"I think there's a lot of options," new manager Mike Matheny told reporters on Tuesday, "and you all have seen who have followed this team closely. The flexibility that's been afforded this team through multiple moves and very versatile players. You don't rule out anything, and obviously Lance has the ability to play first base, has the ability to play the outfield. It'll be fun to kind of move those pieces of the puzzle once that time does or does not come."
In addition to player transactions, the Cardinals also took a hit in the front office in Dallas. Scouting director Jeff Luhnow was hired by the Astros to serve as their new general manager.
The news on Pujols came at the very end of the meetings, quite literally as general manager John Mozeliak was leaving the Anatole. So the club has not stated its exact intentions for a post-Pujols plan. But both the offense and the pitching staff could use improvement, and the Cardinals may well have $20 million or more worth of room on their payroll.
St. Louis could also look to upgrade the roster via trade, though Mozeliak has flatly said that he prefers not to trade from his store of prospects. But the Cards have depth in right-handed relief, and Mozeliak has heard offers for three of the five members of his starting rotation.
So while Thursday's Pujols news was the end of one era, it was also very much the beginning of the story of the 2012 Cardinals.
Deals done: None
Rule 5 activity: Selected Komatsu from the Nationals' organization. The Cardinals didn't lose anyone in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft.
Goals accomplished: St. Louis got resolution on Pujols' situation, even if it was obviously not the resolution the team was hoping for. The rest of the offseason begins now, as the Cards can begin moving more aggressively on their other needs.
Unfinished business: Everything that was on their plate still is. The Cardinals need to identify a shortstop and decide on how they will handle second base. They need a left-handed reliever and some bench depth, and may now be in the hunt for an outfielder if Berkman is moving to first base.
GM's bottom line: "I would think we'd be able to start moving forward. But as far as the timing of how quickly we'd get things resolved, I couldn't answer that." -- Mozeliak on Tuesday, addressing how the club would be able to proceed once Pujols' situation was resolved.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.