Cards have flexibility for additional impact player

Voit works out in outfield; expectations high for pair of pitching prospects

January 13th, 2018

ST. LOUIS -- The organization will introduce its prized offseason acquisition at Winter Warm-Up on Sunday when makes his first public appearance for the Cardinals. The question still lingering, though, is whether the Cardinals will have another impact addition ready to show off in the coming weeks.

The glacial pace at which moves have been made across baseball this offseason leaves the free-agent market still ripe with talent as the countdown to Spring Training hits one month. So could the Cardinals, who still have ample financial flexibility, take advantage and pounce?

"I think I would go back to the fact that I feel like we addressed what we were hoping to address," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "Now there's still a lot of different little things we may chase, and I don't know if the market itself, based on just pace, is going to change how we're thinking about it. But clearly, there's a lot of unsigned players out there, so between now and Opening Day I would imagine there's going to be a lot of noise on that end and certainly you're going to see, at some point, a break in the player signings."

The Cardinals have actually been among the more active teams this offseason. In addition to trading for Ozuna, they have added to the rotation and Luke Gregerson to the bullpen. The club has also dealt away two players -- and -- from its 2017 Opening Day lineup.

New perspective

While the Cardinals have no plans to move to a new permanent position, the first baseman has broken in an outfield glove this winter in an attempt to enhance his versatility. Most of that work has been taking place at nearby Maryville University, where Voit has been learning to read balls off the bat and improve his routes.

Voit's only previous outfield experience in the outfield came in 2016, when he started 12 games in left field at Double-A Springfield.

"I'm trying to make outfield a spot for a day that Dexter [Fowler] or Ozuna or whoever needs a day off," Voit said. "Most guys will say that the outfield, you've just got to take balls off the bat. But it's more getting my hips engaged and kind of learning different ways -- the slicing, the hooking, taking the perfect route. It's stuff that you just can't do overnight. It's experience."

Voit made his Major League debut in 2017 and went on to start 18 games at first base for the Cardinals. But with Matt Carpenter and ahead of him on the depth chart, opportunities at that position are likely to be scarce early in the year.

Worth noting

• Expectations are high for pitchers Jordan Hicks (the organization's No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline) and Ryan Helsley (No. 22) going into 2018, as Mozeliak speculated that both are likely "to have a positive impact on our Major League club at some point this year." Hicks finished last season in Class A Advanced, while Helsley climbed as high as Triple-A.

• Several folks did a double-take upon seeing a clean-shaven at Winter Warm-Up.

"It's like those videos where little babies see their dads with a shaved face for the first time and they're like, 'Mmmm, I don't like it,'" teammate said. "I'm ready for him to grow the beard back."

• Following his weekend visit to St. Louis, Wong will join shortstop in Jupiter, Fla., to get a head start working with returning infield coach Jose Oquendo. Mikolas, who makes his offseason home in Jupiter, has also been popping in to the complex occasionally to get in some work and meet new teammates.