Mozeliak: Meetings not a 'finish line' for Cards

December 10th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Among the Cardinals’ needs this offseason is improved offense, but the front office is still considering the different ways to achieve that. So while some teams might be looking to make a splash at the Winter Meetings this week, the Cardinals are going to move more deliberately as they go over their options.

“One of the takeaways for us is the finish line is not Thursday,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Monday. “What we’re really trying to do is understand what these markets looks like.”

Mozeliak emphasized one of the Cardinals’ preferences in offensive improvement is adding a left-handed bat to the lineup, and they’ve explored ways to do that this offseason. The free-agent market in that area is thin, so the Cardinals are looking at potential trades. Yet the market for a trade early at the Meetings has been slow.

“We’re not exactly close to doing something right now,” Mozeliak said. “It’s sort of a wish list. Wishes can change.”

If the trade market for a left-handed hitter heats up, the Cardinals could become more aggressive. They have a slew of young outfielders -- Lane Thomas, Randy Arozarena, Tyler O’Neill, Justin Williams and Adolis García -- they can use as trade chips, but they also want to allow those outfielders, as well as the rest of the returning lineup, to help improve the offense from within. The goal of these Meetings, for the Cardinals, is to see where other teams are in wanting to move players who could fit with the Cardinals

“I feel like most Winter Meetings that we’ve had something that we’re chasing,” Mozeliak said. “I think it’s a compliment to our club, really. We like the players we have. That’s a good thing.”

Carpenter’s offseason plan focuses on maintaining strength

The Cardinals help shape players’ offseason plans and training, especially with the need for offensive improvement from within this year. Matt Carpenter’s plan focuses on his strength. Mozeliak said that the Cardinals are planning on Carpenter being the starting third baseman in 2020, especially with the need for a left-hander in the lineup. That requires Carpenter to have a bounce-back season.

The performance department ran tests at the end of the season to determine the reasons for a drop in his weight and strength -- and subsequently, his exit velocity and power numbers. They’ve used the results to shape a plan to help him add weight and strength, as well as to maintain it. Mozeliak didn’t elaborate on what might have caused the drop, but it isn’t an ailment.

“He’s one of those types of players that has a hard time holding weight,” Mozeliak said. “One of the things that we’ve tried to do this offseason is find a strength program that we think could work for him so he can maintain that. As the season unfolds, it’s something that we’ll need to be conscious of and intentional about to try to keep that up.”

Carpenter is coming off a career-low year in almost all categories, and his exit velocity dipped, too. On fastballs this year, for example, he averaged an 89 mph exit velocity. In 2018, his average was 91.5 mph. In '16, it was 92.2 mph. Mozeliak said the performance department was encouraged when meeting with Carpenter a few weeks ago.

“He was hitting into some really bad luck in 2018,” Mozeliak said. “In 2019, it was a little different when we peeled back the onion. The more we looked at it, we felt like he needed to change what he did in the offseason to prepare for 2020. Our optimism is high on it. We’ll find out.”

‘Dollars and length matter’ in interest for Ozuna

Mozeliak confirmed that the Cardinals’ interest in left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who rejected their qualifying offer in hopes of landing a multiyear deal, is still there. The Cardinals just aren’t considered frontrunners in signing Ozuna -- one of the top outfield free agents this offseason.

“I would think we are still in the game,” Mozeliak said. “We’re not closing any doors. Doors may get closed, but it’s not our doing.”

What might close those doors is Ozuna’s hope for a multiyear deal. While he’s expressed his desire to stay in St. Louis, the Cardinals might not be willing to commit the amount of years he’s looking for. That could block the outfield depth even longer.

“There is [genuine interest], but dollars and length matter,” Mozeliak said. “So that’s something that needs to be resolved.”