ST. LOUIS -- It is no secret the Cardinals will be looking for ways to upgrade their offense, find production in the outfield and search for lineup consistency this offseason.
How that plays out is still to be determined. The organization is creating a strategy for adding a hitter or two this winter, but payroll restrictions might limit what they will do -- and how much they’ll spend.
“As we sit here today, I know we’ll have some changes,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Wednesday. “There will be some decisions that we have to make, but don’t have a complete roadmap because again, there’s a lot of uncertainty in this offseason. And it’s hard to lay out a specific strategy on Oct. 28 when there’s a lot of question marks and still don’t have answers.”
One thing won’t change: Mozeliak put his confidence in hitting coach Jeff Albert, who will return, along with the rest of manager Mike Shildt’s staff, to the dugout in 2021. The Cardinals have a long-term goal to implement Albert’s tech-savvy approach into their system, and they have invested in the infrastructure, as well as the personnel, to see it play out.
“I really have a lot of confidence in what Jeff’s doing and what this team is doing,” Mozeliak said. “They understand what’s expected. So overall, I feel like they’re going down the path that we envisioned, but again, it’s something that we understand will take time.”
It doesn’t take away the team’s short-term goal of contending every year, and the past two years have seen quieter offensive performances, especially in the postseason. To improve the offense -- which had the third-fewest runs scored this season, albeit with 58 games instead of 60, and the least productive outfield among postseason teams -- the Cardinals will bank on the improvement of their current core hitters, as well as some changes to the lineup.
The outfield and third base are spots they can upgrade. If the designated hitter stays in the National League, that’s another position to target in the market.
“After this very odd and strange year we’ve been through, we’ve learned some things and we still have some questions,” Mozeliak said. “And I would imagine that that’s going to create for a lot of hot stove conversation over what we should do or what we will do or what we can do over the next three or four months. ... As we approach this offseason, it’s definitely going to require some creativity, some patience and good timing.”
Mozeliak on Arozarena: ‘It’s on me’
Mozeliak preemptively brought up Rays rookie sensation Randy Arozarena, who broke all kinds of records in this postseason, on Wednesday because he knew he was going to field questions about what it’s like to watch the former Cardinal become a breakout star in October.
The Cardinals traded Arozarena last offseason as part of a deal with Tampa Bay to bring top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore to St. Louis. At the time, the move was exciting for the Cardinals because they cleared room in their outfield for players like Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill and Lane Thomas and helped their future with Liberatore -- whose future is very much still exciting.
But it was somewhat agonizing for Cardinals fans to watch Arozarena do what he did for Tampa Bay in October, especially because St. Louis’ outfield offense ranked 27th among the 30 Major League teams in batting average (.209) and 22nd in slugging (.383).
“What does this mean for us? I see this as an opportunity for us to revisit our own internal evaluations methods,” Mozeliak said. “Clearly, when I look back at it, when we made that deal, obviously we were making this trade for our future. We were looking at trading for somebody that would eventually be in our rotation and be a contributing member. But when you look at our offensive struggles, it’s a fair question to ask why him and not someone else.
“I will own that. That’s on me. And I have always said that you always have to know your own players better than players outside your organization because if you get that wrong, you have a problem. And that’s why we will take that opportunity and revisit how we rank our own players and make sure we don’t have something like this happen again.”
Later, Mozeliak mentioned slugger Marcell Ozuna, whom the Cardinals let go to free agency last winter. He signed a one-year deal with the Braves and led the NL with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs after two inconsistent years with the Cardinals, raising questions about what was different in St. Louis.
“I think it’s a fair question to try to understand what they’re doing differently, whether it’s the training room to the weight room to the batting cage, or the bullpen,” Mozeliak said. “But yeah, we all want to ask questions and understand why. Look, we’d all love to bat 1.000, but clearly in our decision making we always don’t. And wherever we can improve upon a process or how we make decisions, we certainly will.”
Goldschmidt has bone spur removed
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt had surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow when the season ended. He was bothered by a sore elbow in Spring Training, but it was alleviated with rest. He made it through the season, and he’s recovering well now, Mozeliak said.
Lefty Ricardo Sánchez had Tommy John surgery on his elbow about two weeks ago after the 23-year-old experienced soreness while with the club in August. The Cardinals’ head physician, Dr. George Paletta, did the surgery.
Cards waiting on instructional camp
The Cardinals aren’t planning on having an instructional camp for their Minor League players yet this year, citing COVID-19 concerns and wanting to wait until testing can be available during it. They are discussing having a hitting camp in December or January like they typically do, but that is still in the early stages of planning. Development is continuing through the performance department’s individual workouts for players like there was before the season began.
“There’s been that bimonthly conversation with players,” Mozeliak said. “I feel like from that standpoint, the ball’s rolling down the hill already so we’re in a good spot there. That’s not to say we might not have a performance camp as well at some point. Just trying to understand numbers. And, pandemic’s still going on. We can’t just simply say it’s not and we’re going to open things up."