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Inbox: What's in store for Cards' rotation in 2013?

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals Inbox is back and will be a regular feature throughout the offseason. But let me first thank all of you for coming to for coverage this year. It's been nearly a year since I moved to the beat, and I have enjoyed getting to interact with a new fan base.

As for these Inboxes, keep in mind that because I receive dozens of questions each week, I cannot answer many of them in this forum. Those that aren't selected are kept for potential future inclusion. Also, a lot of the questions are answered in other everyday content on the website. Yes, consider that a plug to stay tuned in while you wait eagerly for Spring Training.

What will the 2013 rotation look like? What are the Cardinals' plans with Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller? Will Carlos Martinez see Major League action?
-- Steele O., Ames, Iowa

Starters Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia will be returning to anchor the rotation. Assuming Garcia does not have any lasting shoulder issues, that would leave one rotation spot vacant. Lance Lynn is a favorite to grab it, but he'll have to show up in Spring Training slimmed down and pitch as if he deserves to move back into the rotation.

Rosenthal, Miller and Joe Kelly will also arrive at Spring Training with the intention of building up their arms to start. Any of the three could break into the rotation if there is a need or if one has a spectacular spring. For any who don't, the Cardinals will have to decide whether to put them in the Major League bullpen or to start them in Triple-A.

Martinez had another strong Minor League season in 2012, but don't plan on him cracking the rotation at season's start. He's likely to begin the year in Memphis.

Is there any way the Cardinals will re-sign pitcher Kyle Lohse? I felt St. Louis committed a major blunder when it re-signed Westbrook. Lohse is by far the better pitcher.
-- David R., El Dorado, Ark.

Nope, not going to happen. Lohse has the numbers to back up your assertion that he is a better pitcher than Westbrook. But that also means he'll command more in salary and will ask for a longer contract.

The Cards extended Westbrook's contract through 2013, when he'll be due $8.75 million. Lohse is seeking an annual salary close to double that and for multiple years. That's a commitment the Cardinals did not want to make, particularly after seeing a number of young starters crack the Major League roster this year. Also to be considered is the risk a club takes when offering a multi-year deal to a pitcher who recently turned 34 years old.

St. Louis made Lohse a qualifying offer -- a one-year deal worth $13.3 million -- though there's no indication Lohse will forgo the opportunity to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere by taking it. Assuming Lohse turns it down (his deadline to decide is 4 p.m. CT on Friday), the Cards will at least secure a Draft pick as compensation for Lohse's departure.

Several times, Lynn appeared to let adversity get to him. He seems almost unbeatable much of the time, but when something goes a bit wrong, he seems to fold. Am I just imagining things, or does the club need to work with him on mental aspects of the game?
-- Gary M., Redondo Beach, Calif.

You were hardly alone in making this observation. This was a point of emphasis during the season, with Carpenter among those who pulled Lynn aside to talk to him about his body language and propensity to be negatively affected by something going against him.

This was particularly evident in August, when Lynn hit his longest sustained rut of the season. And much of the instruction from Carpenter and coaches came during Lynn's brief move to the bullpen. When Lynn returned to the rotation, he seemed in better control of his emotions, but this issue is certainly one still in progress. Lynn will need to show that he has matured before the Cardinals hand him a rotation spot for 2013.

I have always liked Kyle McClellan. Is he fully recovered from his injury, and do you expect the Cardinals to keep him next year? I think he would be a welcome addition in middle relief.
-- Glenn J., Chicago

McClellan, who underwent shoulder surgery in July, said near the end of the regular season that he was about two to three weeks ahead in his rehab schedule. That had him on track to begin throwing in early November. His intention is to throw for a month, rest his arm in December and then resume his throwing program at the start of 2013. That schedule, he hopes, will allow the Cardinals (and other clubs) enough time to see that he is fully recovered.

McClellan is again arbitration-eligible but is a candidate to be non-tendered by the Cardinals, who likely won't want to pay him the guaranteed money he'd be assured if the parties go through this process. In arbitration, a team can offer no less than 80 percent of the previous year's salary, meaning that the Cardinals' lowest offer to McClellan would have to be $2 million.

If the Cardinals opt not to tender McClellan a contract, the right-hander will become a free agent. That does not preclude the Cards from trying to then negotiate a contract with him that includes a lower base salary and, perhaps, appearance incentives. The catch, of course, is that the organization would have competition.

Do you see Matt Adams finding his way onto the 40-man roster, or do you foresee him being used as a trade chip?
-- James W., Sacramento, Calif.

Adams is already on the 40-man roster; he had to be on there in order to spend time on the Major League roster in 2012. The question is whether he'll break the 25-man roster again in 2013. Adams' biggest obstacle in denting the roster won't necessarily be his ability. With Carlos Beltran returning to play right field, Allen Craig is projected to be the Cardinals' starting first baseman in 2013. That would seem to leave little opportunity for Adams to earn playing time.

The Cardinals could use his left-handed bat on the bench, though there will be a debate as to whether that's the best way to help Adams continue to develop. He would also provide depth should the Cardinals deal with a key injury. Or, as you mention, he could be a trade chip. With Craig secured for several more seasons and Oscar Taveras expected to push his way into the outfield soon, the Cards might not see a long-term fit for Adams.

Trading him would allow the Cardinals to address another area of need.

I know that Lance Berkman and Lohse are free agents this year. What players are potential free agents after the end of the 2013 season?
-- Jeff H., Elkville, Ill.

While the Cardinals weren't in position to lose several players to free agency this offseason, it'll be a vastly different dynamic in a year. The list of to-be free agents in 2013 include: Beltran, Wainwright, Carpenter, Westbrook, Rafael Furcal, McClellan, Edward Mujica and Skip Schumaker.

Westbrook has a mutual option that could be exercised for 2014, which would take him out of the free-agent pool. McClellan and Mujica are both arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, which would make both free agents after another year. If the Cardinals do not tender McClellan a contract this winter and he goes elsewhere, he'll obviously come off this list.

What can you tell us about Brian Fuentes? Will he be back with the Cards next year? I haven't heard him mentioned when discussing the team's lefty reliever options.
-- Kris K., Des Moines, Iowa

No, Fuentes is a free agent and the Cardinals will not pursue re-signing the left-hander. Fuentes left the club, due to personal reasons, after making only six appearances. Whether Fuentes, 37, even intends to pitch next year is an unknown.

The Cardinals will, however, pursue other left-handed relievers, as this is certainly an area of need that the club never entirely addressed in 2012.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Adams, Joe Kelly, Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, Shelby Miller, Edward Mujica, Jake Westbrook