ST. LOUIS -- Welcome to the first offseason edition of the Cardinals Inbox.
A four-game sweep in the National League Championship Series was certainly not the way the Cardinals wanted to end their season, but an NL Central championship and a return to the postseason is something the Cardinals can build on for 2020. And there is no shortage of questions for the front office or fans as the focus turns to how the Cardinals can improve.
There were plenty of questions about how the Cardinals might attack the offseason, and we’ll get into a few of those this week, with more to come as the plan becomes clearer.
The Cardinals' Opening Day roster is more likely to be a blend of both young players and veteran players. It’s pretty unlikely the Cardinals will move Fowler -- he has a full no-trade clause -- and they’ll want to give Carpenter another chance to be the player he was in the second half of 2018 again. Utility man Tommy Edman complicates that, but manager Mike Shildt wasn’t afraid to use Carpenter off the bench for several games. Plus, Edman can play many roles on the team. If Carpenter and Fowler can play like they are supposed to, you’ll want them on your Opening Day roster. Martínez factors into the Opening Day roster, too, but where he’ll fit in will depend on the moves the Cardinals make this winter.
The center-field spot is up for grabs. Bader, Thomas and Arozarena should compete for the starting spot as well as an outfield bench spot. If the Cardinals part ways with Marcell Ozuna, who is a free agent, O’Neill can compete for left field -- if he stays healthy, if he isn’t used as a trade chip and if the Cardinals don’t use an outfield spot to upgrade offensively. Don’t forget about Dylan Carlson, the Cardinals’ No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, who will also be in the mix of young players competing in Spring Training.
Has Edman changed the Cardinals’ plans? And how do you think it will affect the offseason?
-- Brandon, Houston, Mo.
Edman’s versatility allows the Cardinals to do a lot of different things this offseason and beyond. They don’t have to lock him in for any one position -- he played second base, third base and every outfield spot this year. If his role is to play every day at a different position, he can deepen the lineup while also giving the Cardinals some flexibility every game. The one thing they have to decide with Edman is if he can play shortstop and be Paul DeJong’s backup. DeJong played 159 games this year, which not only reflects the Cardinals’ trust in him, but also their lack of it with Yairo Muñoz, who made the postseason roster and got one at-bat in nine games.
Edman gives the Cardinals flexibility in the offseason, too, because he doesn’t slot in for just one position. For example, they’re free to go get a power-hitting outfielder with the thought that Edman can play more in the infield, or vice versa.
Is it more likely for the Cardinals to pursue offensive upgrades internally, via trade or on the free-agent market?
-- Zach M., Kansas City
The question of the season. All three suggestions will be looked at for solutions to the offense. Whether the latter two come to fruition will depend on the deals the Cardinals can work out. It’s important to remember that 2019 was not a lost year -- the Cardinals did what they set out to do (win the division) and were four wins away from the World Series. So 2020 will not be a rebuilding year. Adding a bat to the lineup, one that would complement Paul Goldschmidt, can strengthen the offense. But the Cardinals will also rely on players like Goldschmidt, Fowler, Carpenter and DeJong to have consistent production.
Depending on what teams ask for in trade possibilities, the Cardinals have the prospects and young players to offer in deals. They were adamant during the Trade Deadline in July that they were not going to trade their top prospects in Carlson or Nolan Gorman, and that hasn’t changed. They won’t want to trade away their young impact players, like Edman, Jack Flaherty or Dakota Hudson. But if a trade is intriguing enough, the Cardinals will listen.
Do you know if there have been any conversations with Matt Wieters about a reunion?
-- Chris, Sydney, Australia
The Cardinals haven’t discussed publicly about signing Wieters, 33, to another contract, but those conversations will begin to happen soon.
Signing Wieters to a one-year deal was one of the best things the Cardinals did; Wieters gave them a veteran backup catcher to help when Yadier Molina went on the injured list for a month, as well as a switch-hitter off the bench when Molina came back. The Cardinals will likely try to bring Wieters back in a similar role, and if they can’t work out a deal, they also have Andrew Knizner -- the club’s No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- to be Molina’s backup.