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Offseason update: Cards making minor moves

ST. LOUIS -- It has been two months since the Cardinals transitioned into the offseason, eyeing ways in which they could improve upon last year's 88-win season. And thus far, the offseason has been mostly quiet in St. Louis.

There have been additions and subtractions, yes, but few of them. Rather, a club that came within a game of the World Series saw little reason for an overhaul.

With the calendar set to soon turn, let's take a look back at what's been accomplished and a look ahead at what's left to address heading into 2013:

Key departures:
Though the Cardinals have not experienced significant turnover this winter, the organization did part ways with Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman, both of whom elected for free agency. Both remain unsigned, but the Cardinals do not anticipate bringing either back in 2013.

Lohse, a 16-game winner in 2012, is widely considered to be the best starting pitcher remaining in the free-agent market. Berkman is still deciding whether he even wants to return for another season. He is weighing that against the option of remaining in Texas and coaching at the collegiate level.

Moves made:
The organization has so far signed two Major League free agents, with both of those agreements coming earlier this month. Randy Choate was inked to a three-year contract and fills the Cardinals' need for another lefty reliever. Last week, the club fortified its bench by agreeing to a two-year deal with versatile veteran Ty Wigginton.

The Cardinals' only offseason trade came in between those two free-agent transactions. The club sent infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker to the Dodgers in exchange for Minor League shortstop Jake Lemmerman.

Though the club has not been all that active in the free-agent market, it has reached Minor League agreements with three players -- catcher Rob Johnson, outfielder Justin Christian and catcher J.R. Towles. Those deals include a non-roster invitation to Major League Spring Training.

St. Louis has also tweaked its 40-man roster in other ways. Minor Leaguers Jorge Rondon, Michael Blazek, Keith Butler, Eric Fornataro and Kevin Siegrist were added so that the Cardinals could protect them from being available in the Rule 5 Draft.

Those additions required that roster space open, and the Cardinals took care of that by making several subtractions. Early in November, Adam Reifer, Steven Hill and Bryan Anderson were outrighted off the 40-man roster. Shortly after, the Cardinals granted Kyle McClellan and Brandon Dickson their releases. McClellan would have been arbitration-eligible had he remained with the organization.

What's left to do?
The Cardinals don't appear poised to make a big splash this offseason, though the club may still add a middle infielder in order to improve the depth in that area. The organization will also hand out several more non-roster Spring Training invitations before camp opens.

Arbitration update:
Earlier this month, the Cardinals tendered contracts to their five arbitration-eligible players: Jason Motte, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, Marc Rzepczynski and David Freese. To date, none of the five have agreed to a contract for the 2012 season.

The Cardinals may consider exploring multiyear deals for some in this group, but at a minimum, a one-year agreement must be mutually reached in order to avoid a February arbitration hearing. Getting these contracts finalized will be atop the organization's to-do list next month.

Important upcoming dates:
• Jan. 9: Hall of Fame results announced
• Jan. 18: Arbitration figures exchanged for players who remain unsigned
• Jan. 19-21: Cardinals to host Winter Warm-Up event in downtown St. Louis
• Feb. 12: Report date for Cardinals pitchers and catchers
• Feb. 15: Report date for Cardinals position players
• Feb. 16: Cardinals to hold first full-squad workout

St. Louis Cardinals, Randy Choate, Ty Wigginton