After a silent performance by St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak at the MLB Winter Meetings, he made noise in the hours following.
Mozeliak addressed the Cardinals’ biggest need of the offseason with the acquisition of former Chicago Cubs centerfielder Dexter Fowler. St. Louis signed Fowler to a five-year $82.5 million deal to become the team’s new centerfielder.
Fowler fills the need the Cardinals were looking for at lead off, adds an element of speed on the base paths, and upgrades their outfield defense, allowing Mike Matheny to shift Randal Grichuk into left field. Stephen Piscotty will handle the right field duties, while Tommy Pham will come off the bench.
So where does the team go now?
They’ll be looking to bounce back from a lousy finish the 2016 season, where they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. To do so, they might need to add some more pieces to the mix if they want to compete with their arch rival and reigning World Series champion Cubs.
Though, don’t expect Mozeliak to land any more big Christmas presents.
While the Cardinals could address some needs at pitching, they’ll likely look to add a bat, but not necessarily to an infield that ranked 26th in 2016 with 107 errors committed according to ESPN.
As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in early November, the Cardinals are shifting third baseman Matt Carpenter over to first base, while Jhonny Peralta will handle the primary third base duties.
Aledmys Diaz, the up and coming rookie All-Star from 2016, seems the likely candidate to be the everyday shortstop, while Kolten Wong will presumably get the chance to play everyday at second base unless Mozeliak were to make a move before the start of the season.
Many of the names the Cardinals were targeting in free agency following the Winter Meetings are now off the board. Two of those names being Justin Turner, who signed a $64 million extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Edwin Encarnacion, who signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Indians.
Had the Cardinals made a move to add Turner, it’d have meant an end to Peralta’s time in St. Louis and had Mozeliak targeted Encarnacion, it’d likely result in Carpenter moving back to second base with Wong being shown the door.
Mozeliak has made it known he wants to develop the young talent in the Cardinals farm system and create a younger big league club, which is the primary reason he didn’t opt for a blockbuster deal and part ways with his top pitching prospect Alex Reyes or current youngster Carlos Martinez.
Both Martinez and Reyes figure to be a key part of the team’s rotation in the future, with an aging Adam Wainwright nearing the end of his contract.
With many of the big name free agents off the board, there’s not really a whole lot out there that makes sense right now for the Cardinals.
Since the Cardinals didn’t explore a big trade with the exception of dealing Jaime Garcia to the Atlanta Braves, Matt Adams and Jedd Gyorko can provide assistance off the bench and Peralta and Carpenter’s versatility allows Matheny to stay creative with his lineups.
The rotation of Wainwright, Martinez, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake is all but set unless Reyes sneaks his way into the 2017 starting rotation. The acquisition of Brett Cecil fills a void in the bullpen and now it only becomes a matter if guys can stay healthy and more importantly, perform consistently.
So don’t count on the Cardinals making any big moves this offseason with their needs addressed and their lineup all but set. Mozeliak likes trusting in his farm system and by continuing his course of abstaining from the big trades not only helped replenish the farm but has also shown he’s entrusting in his current guys to step up.
[Featured Image by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images]