General manager John Mozeliak has said he "feel[s] pretty good moving forward," and it might be easy for Cards' fans to agree. Mozeliak has addressed the team's primary concern -- improving at shortstop -- with one of the most talented players available at the position.
Peralta, a, 11-year veteran, provides the club with a solid glove and a considerable improvement in the batter's box. Last season, Pete Kozma logged 448 plate appearances at short, posting a batting line of just .217/.275/.273. He was excellent defensively, but his shortcomings as a hitter were damaging enough to completely negate his fielding prowess, according to his 0.0 fWAR. The team's new 4-year, $53 million deal with Peralta suggests that the Cards expect him to be a considerable improvement over replacement-level production, and there's good reason for them to be confident in their new shortstop. He's posted 12 fWAR over his last three seasons, all with the Detroit Tigers.
St. Louis' other roster moves are likely to have more complicated impact on the team. Acquiring Peter Bourjos from the Angels for third baseman David Freese will provide the Cardinals with topnotch defense in center field, and subsequently relegate John Jay to a fourth outfielder role, according to the team's official depth chart. Bourjos has had trouble with injures in his career, seeing action in just 156 games in the last two seasons combined, so Jay could be in the outfield rotation on a somewhat regular basis to keep his new teammate fresh.
To replace Freese, St. Louis will shift 2013 second baseman -- and NL MVP candidate -- Matt Carpenter to third, where he played the majority of his minor league career. Last year, rookie Kolten Wong played over 100 innings at second, and appears poised for an opportunity to prove he's the club's long-term solution. Recent free agent signing Mark Ellis gives Mozeliak the flexibility to move Wong through the team's system as he sees fit, and his presence could mean the Cards' plan to have Wong start the season in Triple-A. Ellis has been an excellent defender in his career and has occasionally posted above average on-base percentages. His one-year, $5.25 million deal with the club is likely a contingent effort to bridge the gap if Wong needs more minor league seasoning.
The loss of Carlos Beltran wouldn't be easy for any team to manage, but for the Cardinals, it might not be such a monumental task. Allen Craig will take Beltran's place in right field, and first baseman Matt Adams should see more regular at bats in 2014. Craig has struggled with injuries in the past, so John Jay could see time in right field occasionally as well in an effort to ease Craig's workload. The Cardinals often employed this tactic with Beltran last season, resting him occasionally to insure he was at his best when in the lineup. Both Craig and Adams have proven to be above average offensive contributors.
St. Louis' offseason moves have effectively remodeled a majority of their defensive alignment. Mozeliak has adapted his club this offseason, while also maintaining the positional flexibility that was instrumental to the health and success of his players a year ago. They may not look exactly like last year's Cardinals, but they do look to be in a good position to compete for another NL Central pennant.