As Prince Fielder continues to languish in pampered free agency purgatory, and rumors swirl increasingly around two or three remaining cities, it's worth noting how quickly the post-Pujols Cardinals obviated the need for a Fielder-sized contract in their 2012 rebuild. While the Washington Nationals keep circling their difficult-to-miss prey, Cardinals fans continue to unpack their departing-slugger care package.
Here they are, the pieces we got to enjoy in lieu of a big home run hitter: One Rafael Furcal, stabilizing a young and not especially consistent infield; one Carlos Beltran, set atop a nicely shaped pile of veterans and platoonable youngsters; and all the while, a greater expectation that, should the Cardinals want to resign one of the other local stars, when the time comes, they'll be able to.
For all that I still wish the Cardinals had been able to come to terms with Albert Pujols, and I'm excited for whichever team signs Fielder. But there are still benefits, as it turns out, to not signing the superstar, even if a bunch of patches are less exciting than a guy who swings really hard and hits home runs.