The recent news of Lance Lynn being shut down for the 2016 season, and the uncertainty of the Cardinals’ roster for next season, John Mozeliak will have some work to do. Mozeliak has mentioned recently that the team will have to dip into areas out of the team’s “comfort zone.” Free agency has plenty of big names if the Cardinals decide to dip their toes in the market. Here is my look at the areas the Cardinals will have to explore to improve their club:
1.) STARTING PITCHING
There is no doubt the Lance Lynn injury has changed the team’s plans for 2016 and beyond. As the team sits now, they have Wainwright, Wacha, Martinez, Garcia and “?”. Wainwright is coming off a season-long injury, Martinez was shut down before the playoffs this past season, Wacha hit a wall heading into the playoffs, and the team has options with Marco Gonzales and Tyler Lyons. The next step for John Mozeliak and Co. will be the need to do some exploring. Can the team land Zach Greinke or David Price? Will they go lower-tier starters such as Mike Leake or Jeff Samardzija, or will they head to the trade market? Bob Nightengale recently told KMOX David Price “would like to play in St. Louis.” This will be a big move for the Cardinals, but it could pay off with a huge 1-2-3 punch.
2.) JASON HEYWARD
Still the biggest unknown for the Cardinals, and this move will hold the biggest impact on what the club does. Is Heyward worth $200 million? There will be teams out there that believe he is worth that money. The Gold-Glove winner had a decent year for the Redbirds and was the anchor for the outfield and for the younger players. If Heyward decides to move elsewhere, the Cardinals will lose one of their most productive batters, their top base stealer, and best defensive player.
3.) FIRST BASE
Jason Heyward’s destination holds a huge piece to the first base puzzle. Matt Adams has struggled since taking over the every day 1st base position, especially missing over 75 percent of the season last year and not even making the postseason roster. Does the club have enough faith in Adams as their every day 1st baseman, and can they afford to risk it? If Heyward remains with the club, then you could possibly spend all of Spring Training grooming Piscotty to be your 1st baseman. But, if Heyward moves on and Mozeliak and Co. want to bring some power, they could make a push for former Orioles 1st baseman, Chris Davis – a player who will demand big money but a player who has hit 159 HRs in his last four seasons.
4.) BULLPEN HELP
This was an area that hit the Cardinals hard in the postseason last year. Overworking Rosenthal, Siegrest, and Maness affected the bullpen, along with some injuries to key players. The team has decided to move on from Broxton (whom they acquired at the trade deadline), undecided on Steve Cishek (who has an option), and Jordan Walden missed almost the entire year. Right now, the Cardinals know they have: Rosenthal, Siegrest, Maness, Mitch Harris, and Sam Tuivalala. The market is a bit thin but John Mozeliak has made some great pick-ups by Spring Training with Pat Neshek two years ago.
5.) BENCH POWER
An area that Cardinals fans have been dying for for the past few years. Mark Reynolds was a great addition to the team, but went from a bench player to an every day player. Other than that addition, Cardinals still were sluggish when it came to bench offense. This could be an area added through free agency, or even through their minor league system. A surging Aledmys Diaz and Patrick Wisdom could see some time with the “big club.” Tommy Pham will have a much larger role come this season, and depending on the position player moves that are made, there could be a few other names on that bench that weren’t last year. One name to keep a close eye on is utility infielder Ben Zobrist, who could fill a huge need in the middle of the infield for Mike Matheny’s club.