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Inbox: When will prospect Taveras be deemed ready?

Inbox: When will prospect Taveras be deemed ready?

Inbox: When will prospect Taveras be deemed ready?

I realize that the Cardinals picked up Peter Bourjos for his defense, but what if his bat doesn't pick up? How early could we possibly see Oscar Taveras start in center field?
-- Brandon A., Webster Groves, Mo.

Regardless of what Bourjos does or does not do, he will not block Taveras. When the Cardinals deem Taveras ready to play every day in St. Louis, the 21-year-old will get his chance. What the addition of Bourjos does do, however, is provide the Cards with flexibility on where they plug in their top prospect.

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All along, the Cardinals have been unsure about Taveras' immediate readiness to play center field. It was to be one of the points of emphasis for Taveras before an ankle injury limited him to 47 games in 2013. With Bourjos and Jon Jay capable of handling center field, it allows the Cardinals the option of sliding Taveras over to right field, a more natural position for him. It may not be where he ends up long term, but it is likely to be his first everyday spot.

If the Cards do not get sufficient production out of their pair of center fielders, they do have the option of making the move with Taveras. The flexibility that the Cardinals have at a number of positions makes it difficult to project just how everything will ultimately shake out. The biggest wild card at the moment is whether Taveras lands on the Opening Day roster.

What is the starting rotation looking like next season? Is Jaime Garcia going to be back? And what are the chances of trading Lance Lynn?
-- Todd F., Ames, Iowa

Garcia is expected to be fully recovered from May shoulder surgery by the time he reports to Spring Training. He was actually close to being game ready when the playoffs ended. All indications were that he would follow a normal offseason program.

Assuming Garcia has no additional setbacks, he will almost certainly be back in the rotation. He offers a left-handed look that the Cardinals lacked during the second half of 2013. St. Louis then has another seven starters -- Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Lynn, Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez and Tyler Lyons -- vying for rotation spots. That depth is pretty remarkable.

Could any of these young pitchers still be traded? Sure. However, the ability for the Cardinals to land a shortstop without dipping into this saturation of starting pitching makes it less likely that any are gone before Spring Training. A lot can change between now and March 31, but my guess is that the Opening Day rotation will include Wainwright, Wacha, Garcia, Lynn and Miller.

Now that we signed Jhonny Peralta, what will happen with Pete Kozma? Will he stay on the roster and be a backup to Peralta? Will we send him to the Minors for some help? What will we do with him?
-- Jake L., Oakville, Mo.

The answer to this will be contingent on what the Cardinals do over the final two months of the Hot Stove season. General manager John Mozeliak has expressed a desire to add another middle infielder (one who can play second base and bats right-handed), so that could affect Kozma's standing.

If you assume that Matt Adams starts the year as the team's first baseman and Taveras opens in Triple-A, the Cardinals have Daniel Descalso, Jay, Kozma, Tony Cruz and Shane Robinson as strong bench candidates. If Taveras makes the Opening Day roster, though, one of those bench players will be squeezed out. If Mozeliak adds another infielder, that could take an additional spot. Again, there are a lot of moving pieces.

If Kozma is on the Major League roster, he would be someone manager Mike Matheny could use late as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement off the bench. Kozma will enter 2014 with one remaining Minor League option, so the Cardinals can send him to the Minors if they don't see a place for him in St. Louis.

Since I don't see the Cards making many more big splashes after acquiring Peralta and Bourjos, will the remainder of the offseason be spent trying to continue to build depth? Will Mozeliak do that through adding non-roster invitees?
-- Matt B., Marshalltown, Iowa

Yes, the Cardinals are likely to add a few more bodies to their spring clubhouse through Minor League signings/non-roster invitations. Most of these players will begin the year in Triple-A to help fill holes not otherwise covered by organizational prospects.

The Cardinals may not, though, be completely done with their Major League signings. As noted above, the organization is evaluating the middle-infield market for a possible add in that area. This sort of acquisition would not be the big splash that Peralta was, but it would be a way in which the Cardinals could improve their depth. Fortifying the bench is certainly not a bad idea, given how exposed it was late last season.

Are the Cardinals putting too much faith in Kolten Wong? It doesn't seem like he's really earned the position by having a great September or a solid Spring Training.
-- David P., Corsicana, Texas

The Cardinals believe that Wong's Minor League numbers are more indicative of future big league production than what he did (or did not do) in his first taste of the Majors last season. The Cardinals had hoped that Wong would be an offensive spark when they called him up in August. But Wong stumbled out of the gate, and as a result, started only sparingly down the stretch. The inconsistent at-bats certainly didn't help him in his search for timing/rhythm.

If the Cardinals commit to Wong and play him regularly, they believe sufficient production will follow. That being said, the club also continues to look to add depth at second base in order to create competition. Adding another infielder would provide insurance in case Wong does not thrive as expected. In the Minors, Wong posted a .301 average and a .365 on-base percentage.

With as dominant as Kevin Siegrist was this past season, is there a chance he'd get consideration for the starting rotation?
-- Jim O., Lawrenceville, Ga.

In another organization, perhaps Siegrist would be given the chance to establish himself as a starter. But with the starting pitching depth I ran through in the earlier question, there is just no way for Siegrist to crack the Cardinals' rotation right now. Not only that, but St. Louis clearly found a bullpen weapon in Siegrist, who lines up to join Randy Choate as the team's lefty relievers.

Siegrist (like Trevor Rosenthal ) seemingly pitched himself out of starting consideration by being so dominant in relief. Siegrist may get the chance to start again down the road. But it won't be in 2014.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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