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Cards enter Winter Meetings poised for moves

Financial flexibility, acquisition of Goldschmidt lend St. Louis strength
December 7, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- After elbowing their way into a frenzied trade market on Wednesday with the blockbuster acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals will travel to Las Vegas for next week's Winter Meetings with a list of wants and needs still to address.The team will arrive, however, knowing that its

ST. LOUIS -- After elbowing their way into a frenzied trade market on Wednesday with the blockbuster acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals will travel to Las Vegas for next week's Winter Meetings with a list of wants and needs still to address.
The team will arrive, however, knowing that its top priority -- landing a middle-of-the-order bat -- was addressed without sacrificing any of the financial flexibility the organization boasted entering the Hot Stove season. That leaves the Cardinals positioned to pounce in a free-agent market still deep with impact talent.
Last winter, the Cardinals stole the Winter Meetings spotlight with a rush of transactions. They started the week by finalizing a deal for starter Miles Mikolas and ended it by landing cleanup hitter Marcell Ozuna in a five-player trade with the Marlins. Stephen Piscotty's departure to Oakland and the additions of Francisco Pena and Luke Gregerson also happened during the team's Winter Meetings stay.
While the Cardinals aren't likely to monopolize the headlines in a similar way this year, they do intend to be active. In a landscape where multiple National League clubs have seized opportunities to improve their rosters already this offseason, the Cardinals will use Goldschmidt's arrival as a springboard for more.

Clubs needs
The priority now becomes adding to a bullpen that needs a dependable late-inning lefty and a closer. Signing Andrew Miller or Zach Britton could address both of those needs at once, though the club is also casting a wider net in its pursuit to improve. Adding multiple relievers isn't out of the question, either. Separately, the Cardinals will continue to work toward balancing their roster by adding a left-handed-hitting utility player. They also need to find a backup for Yadier Molina at the catching position now that Carson Kelly is in Arizona.
Whom might they trade?
Though the Cardinals dipped into their pitching and catching depth to land Goldschmidt, they aren't ruling out additional deals. With a surplus of right fielders, the Cards could look to deal Jose Martinez, who profiles as a more natural fit for an American League club. Jedd Gyorko is expendable now that he's been squeezed out of a starting job. And even after losing Luke Weaver, St. Louis has enough pitching depth to part with more for the right return.

Prospects to know
Having already traded Weaver and Kelly, the Cardinals won't want to tap too much further into their farm system to enhance the Major League roster. Top prospect Alex Reyes is expected to be a key contributor and not a trade candidate. Neither is Andrew Knizner, who replaces Kelly as the heir apparent to Molina. Given that the Cards have had a challenging time developing elite position player talent recently, they'll also covet hanging onto third baseman Nolan Gorman.

Rule 5 Draft
With one opening on their 40-man roster, the Cards could nab a player in the Rule 5 Draft. It's not a place, however, where they typically find impact talent. As far as who the Cardinals might lose, keep an ear out for interest in power pitcher Junior Fernandez and infielder Max Schrock.
Payroll summary
Because Goldschmidt comes with a short-term commitment, all that payroll elasticity the Cardinals were ready to utilize on a big bat can now be allocated elsewhere. The Cardinals have approximately $111 million earmarked for 12 players. Another three arbitration-eligible players -- Ozuna, Michael Wacha and Dominic Leone -- will likely add around $20 million more to that total. With the rest of the players on the active roster due to make near the Major League minimum, the Cards have plenty of flexibility to take on additional salary commitments.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.