The Cardinals are known to be looking for a significant bat to insert into the middle of their lineup this offseason, but FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes that they’re also exploring various means of landing a top-notch starter as well. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak met with agents Joel Wolfe and Adam Katz of the Wasserman agency last night, per Heyman. Wasserman represents slugger Giancarlo Stanton (another reported Cardinals target), but Yu Darvish is the agency’s top free agent this winter, and Heyman reports that the meeting between the two sides was about pitching.
It’s not clear how much of a focus Darvish was in their meeting, of course. Wasserman has a large portfolio of clients, and the Cardinals also plan to use the GM Meetings to discuss bullpen upgrades, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Wasserman represents both Brandon Morrow and Addison Reed, for instance (as can be seen in MLBTR’s Agency Database), both of whom stand out as on-paper targets for the Cardinals.
Heyman writes that St. Louis could well emerge as a serious player for either Darvish or fellow righty Jake Arrieta, but the team’s front office prefers to explore the trade market before aggressively diving into the free-agent waters. Of course, there won’t exactly be an abundance of top-level arms available on the market. There aren’t many (if any) available trade candidates that could pitch at the front of a contender’s rotation. Chris Archer is an oft-speculated candidate, but there’s never been any real indication that the Rays are open to moving him and Heyman suggests Tampa Bay has no interest in doing so at this time. (With four years at a total of $33.75MM remaining on his deal, that’s hardly a surprise.)
With the Cardinals looking to make a splash both on the offensive side of the spectrum and potentially in the rotation, there are any number of routes the team can pursue. If the lack of available arms causes the club to circle back to free-agent rotation options, Mozeliak and his staff could look to use a sizable crop of young outfielders and young-but-inexperienced starters to then acquire a bat (e.g. Stanton, Jose Abreu) on the trade market. Magneuris Sierra, Harrison Bader, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty all figure to have varying levels of appeal to other teams, as would young righties Alex Reyes, Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver (though Weaver’s strong 2017 performance may take him off the table).
Alternatively, St. Louis could utilize that stockpile of young talent to pry a less obvious rotation piece away from another club and devote some of its available resources to a free agent such as J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer.
The Cardinals, it seems, are largely focused on making a significant addition or two, but it’s common for clubs to use this time of year to explore many different paths as they look to construct a contending roster. The Cardinals’ $1 billion television contract is about to start, which could make it easier for the team to stomach the addition of a large contract (via free agency or trade), and the aforementioned group of young talents only represents a portion of the names they could utilize to pique the interest of other clubs. Given the myriad decisions with which they’re faced, the Cards figure to be one of the most influential teams in determining the overall landscape of the 2017-18 offseason for all 30 MLB clubs.