Good Morning Cardinal Nation,

Here’s what I have for you this morning:

— The Tampa Bay Rays extended Evan Longoria’s contract by six years and $100 million, which will keep him in Tampa through at least 2022. Read more here

— It is expected that the Philadelphia Phillies will have a new center fielder in the near future.

— Derrick Goold wrote an extensive article this morning about the Cardinals need for a left-handed reliever.

— It’s Cyber Monday on Check out the latest deals here

— According to several sources, the Cardinals will receive $122,558.29 each for their runner-up appearance in the NLCS.

I’ve been saying for months that the Cardinals need another left-handed reliever. Rzepczynski is a good pitcher. In 70 games in 2012, he had a 4.24 ERA in 46.2 innings pitched. But, it is very clear that he is best when there is another lefty in the bullpen with him. As Mozeliak said recently:

“I think usage is critical. I think having another lefty made him feel better. When he was a one-man band out there he didn’t pitch as well. That’s why we need to find someone.”

As the Cardinals really don’t have any other needs this off-season, I think it makes sense to go out there and, if necessary, overpay for the top left-handed reliever on the market, which would still not be a huge sum of money since the options are scarce. As Goold points out, the two best options through free agency would most likely be Randy Choate or Mike Gonzalez. Here are a few thoughts I have on both of them:

Randy Choate: In 2012, Choate, 37, had a solid 3.08 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched. Though, it should be noted that he pitched significantly better with the Marlins in the first part of 2012 before being traded to the Dodgers along with Hanley Ramirez on July 25. While he had a 2.49 ERA with Miami, he only had a 4.05 ERA with the Dodgers. His WHIP also jumped all the way from .987 to 1.650. Considering Marlins Park is a significantly better park for pitchers than Dodger Stadium, this is very curious. In any case, his old age and seemingly decline in production would suggest that Choate is not going to get more than one year and a couple million dollars on the free agent market.

Mike Gonzalez: Gonzalez actually pitched against the Cardinals in the 2011 World Series, giving up 2 earned runs over 3 innings. In 2012, he had a 3.03 ERA in 35.2 innings pitched with 39 strikeouts with the Washington Nationals. At age 34, he shows a little more potential for 2013 for Choate and could receive attention from a number of teams who are looking for another left-handed reliever. While showing a bit of decline since his 2009 season when he had a 2.42 ERA in 74.1 innings with the Atlanta Braves, I see Gonzalez as the best fit for the Cardinals. If I were John Mozeliak, I wouldn’t be afraid to offer him a two-year contract worth around $4-5 million.