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Inbox: Will Cardinals take a look at Marwin?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from fans
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- Here's another round of your Qs and my As to get you thinking about summer days and baseball season while preparing for another weekend of being snowed in.

Has there been any talk of taking a look at Marwin Gonzalez? Seems like a super-utility guy that would fit that bench player they'd be looking for.
-- Steve O. (@citylightssteve)

ST. LOUIS -- Here's another round of your Qs and my As to get you thinking about summer days and baseball season while preparing for another weekend of being snowed in.

Has there been any talk of taking a look at Marwin Gonzalez? Seems like a super-utility guy that would fit that bench player they'd be looking for.
-- Steve O. (@citylightssteve)

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Lots of questions coming my way about Gonzalez this week, so let's examine his case now. The fit clearly makes a lot of sense. Not only can Gonzalez play just about anywhere on the field (including shortstop), but he'd offer a switch-hitting presence off the bench. That would instantly help balance the Cardinals' offense.

The issue, though, isn't so much the Cardinals' interest in Gonzalez, but rather what his interest would be in them. He's accrued 500-plus plate appearances in each of the last three seasons and averaged 125 starts per year during that span. He's looking to land somewhere where he can match that playing time, and the Cards don't have it to offer. That's why I'd expect Gonzalez to end up elsewhere.

What will the Cardinals do if Dexter Fowler doesn't pan out as they think he will?
-- William B. (@Wmb0127)

Right now, the club has insurance behind him in the form of Jose Martinez and Tyler O'Neill, and the Cardinals are comfortable leaning on either one if Fowler struggles again. That's one of the reasons why the Cards haven't been quick to deal Martinez this winter. He still offers important value, defensive issues aside. The outfield depth extends further, too, with Adolis Garcia, Lane Thomas and Justin Williams also on the 40-man roster.

Video: CIN@STL: Fowler homers to right-center field

In a bigger-picture view, though, if the Cardinals don't get the necessary production out of Fowler this year, his time here likely ends. Even though his contract runs through the 2021 season, it's hard to see the organization retaining him for that long if he endures another season like his last one. Of course, both parties are optimistic that won't be the case.

The Cardinals had the money for Jason Heyward and Giancarlo Stanton. All of a sudden, they don't have it for a 26-year-old power-hitting right fielder who is a once-in-a-generation player. Why?
-- Eric C. (@ericcleveland)

No one has said the Cardinals don't have the money. It has nothing to do with what they have, instead it has everything to do with how they plan to allocate it. If the Cardinals wanted to make a competitive and compelling offer to Bryce Harper today, they could. There remains flexibility in their payroll -- both in the short- and long-term, which is one of the reasons why many thought the Cardinals were among the teams best positioned to wade into the deep end of the free-agent market this offseason.

Video: ATL@WSH: Harper slugs an opposite-field solo homer

The issue tugging at the Cardinals is more about whether to invest those dollars into this particular player for his desired number of years. The team is balancing that within the context of its current roster and player projections.

What's the backup plan if Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna leave in free agency?
-- Brandon D. (@LyleDozier)

If the Cards lose both hitters after the 2019 season, without question their offense will require a makeover. Plan A, of course, is to retain at least one of them. Goldschmidt is the primary target, and don't be surprised if the club opens extension talks before the first baseman even reaches free agency.

Video: ATL@ARI: Goldschmidt ties it in 9th with solo jack

As big a boost as their farm system has been in recent years, the Cardinals don't appear to have any high-impact everyday position players on the cusp of the Majors. That means replacing Goldschmidt and/or Ozuna would require once again looking outside the organization for help. There will be marquee free agents available next winter -- including Nolan Arenado -- but the preference would be to retain who they've got, assuming production is as expected this year.

How much do you see the addition of Goldy helping Paul DeJong offensively? [He] seemed to make good strides fielding, but regressed as a hitter last year.
-- Scott B. (@49erboivie)

I'm not sure if you'll see much of a cause and effect here, unless the Cards were to hit DeJong ahead of Goldschmidt. The more likely scenario, though, is that Goldschmidt will bat in front of the shortstop in manager Mike Shildt's order. If there's a benefit, it would seem to be that DeJong would see increased opportunities to hit with men on base, and the two hitters in front of him (both of whom are among the most patient hitters in the game) will give DeJong a better look at a pitcher's repertoire.

Video: STL@ATL: DeJong mashes a 2-run jack to left-center

Instead, I'd argue that the biggest impact on DeJong's offensive outlook this season is his health. After undergoing one final procedure on his hand this offseason, he can now put that injury behind him.

When do pitchers and catchers report?
-- Mark R. (@1jurisconsultus)

Finally, an easy one. Here's a rundown of key dates related to Spring Training:

Feb. 12: Pitchers and catcher report

Feb. 13: First workout for pitchers and catchers

Feb. 17: Position players report

Feb. 18: First full-squad workout

Feb. 23: First Grapefruit League game (at Marlins)

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.

St. Louis Cardinals