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Cardinals continue to keep 'foot on the gas'

St. Louis has avoided teardown trend in favor of a win-now mentality
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Perennial postseason participants for so many years, the Cardinals spent this past October not making another deep playoff push, but rather reflecting on how the organization had come up short for a second consecutive year.

What was unfamiliar in 2016 became, as one player described it, "a pattern" in 2017, when for the first time in a decade, the Cardinals didn't play beyond Game 162 in back-to-back seasons.

ST. LOUIS -- Perennial postseason participants for so many years, the Cardinals spent this past October not making another deep playoff push, but rather reflecting on how the organization had come up short for a second consecutive year.

What was unfamiliar in 2016 became, as one player described it, "a pattern" in 2017, when for the first time in a decade, the Cardinals didn't play beyond Game 162 in back-to-back seasons.

Putting a stop to that skid was the foundation for the team's offseason blueprint. In a period when numerous clubs are tearing down before building back up, the Cardinals, who haven't missed the postseason in three consecutive years since the '90s, had no intention of taking their time in filling holes.

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"Our expectations are to win," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. "When you really take a step back and look at the moves we made, this was about competing now. Under [principal owner] Mr. [Bill] DeWitt [Jr.] and my leadership, we've always tried to be competitive. Yes, the last two years we have not gotten to the playoffs, but we have still had an above-.500 winning percentage. We've tried to compete. There are reasons why we probably weren't as successful as we had hoped the last two years.

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"As we look at this year, our focus is on getting to October. And when you think about other teams that break up or take a timeout, that's not something we've even had an internal debate on. I can honestly tell you that it's always about how we keep our foot on the gas. How can we improve?"

The Cardinals believe they have improved through a series of offseason moves, most of which came during a one-week period in December. An offense that ranked seventh in the National League with 761 runs scored a year ago added an impact bat, with the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna.

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Additionally, the club decluttered its outfield surplus by trading Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, replaced Lance Lynn by signing starter Miles Mikolas, and augmented its bullpen with the additions of Luke Gregerson and Dominic Leone. Around them, the Cardinals plan to fill holes with young players they drafted and developed.

In total, more than a quarter of the Cardinals' 40-man roster has turned over since the end of last season.

"I think when you look back, really to early October, we made it very clear what our objectives were," Mozeliak said. "We felt like over the course of the next three months, we were certainly able to accomplish a lot of those."

Yet, when the Cardinals open camp next week, they'll do so knowing that their path back to the top of the National League Central has gotten no easier. The Cubs remain the two-time defending division champs, and the Brewers have shown through their offseason activity that they don't intend to go away, either.

Playing into October will be a goal, yes, but it's not the only one. The Cardinals want to catch (and surpass) the Cubs, and they intend to compete for a World Series championship again. Whether they've built a roster capable of either will start coming into focus as soon as Spring Training begins.

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.

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