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Inbox: Could Cards swoop in and get Kimbrel?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers fans' questions
Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the ninth inning in Game 3 of the World Series baseball game on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Jae C. Hong/AP)
January 31, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- On the heels of a frigid week, please take comfort knowing that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in less than two weeks. Oh, and baseball's Opening Day is next month. We're almost there, folks. I promise. But as we continue trying to will

ST. LOUIS -- On the heels of a frigid week, please take comfort knowing that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training in less than two weeks. Oh, and baseball's Opening Day is next month. We're almost there, folks. I promise.
But as we continue trying to will winter out of our region, let's take a run through another batch of reader questions to wrap up the week.
:: Submit a question to the Cardinals Inbox ::
Whither Jedd Gyorko? He seems to have no role. Is it possible to get Craig Kimbrel on a short deal if the market has dried up?
-- Ken C. (@KCapo45), via Twitter

Two questions here, so let's start with Gyorko. His role remains undefined, and it is tricky projecting where he'll get the bulk of his at-bats. They might just come as a pinch-hitter, which will be an adjustment for someone who has accrued at least 400 plate appearances in each of his six Major League seasons. Gyorko's willingness to play the outfield, while appreciated, also is unlikely to unlock much additional playing time. I thought he'd be a guy the Cardinals would trade this winter, and perhaps they tried. If so, the $13 million he's due to make in 2019 was likely an obstacle to consummating a deal.
As for Kimbrel, it's hard to imagine that the market has completely dried up for a closer who has averaged 42 saves a year since 2011. There were reports earlier this offseason about Kimbrel desiring a five- or six-year deal worth around $100 million. It's hard to see him getting that in this market. If his price comes down enough, sure, there's no reason why the Cards can't pounce. They have the payroll flexibility and the need. But watch out for the Red Sox, who seem ready to move on the 30-year-old reliever if he reduces his ask.
Who starts the season as the second right fielder, assuming Dexter Fowler gets the chance to start in right field to open the year: Tyler O'Neill or José Martínez?
-- Nate J. (@NateJakobs), via Twitter

It will be Martinez. In fact, I'm not sure O'Neill has a path to denting the Opening Day roster unless the Cards are hit by an injury during Spring Training. With a preference to carry eight relievers, the Cards are likely to enter the season with a four-man bench. One of those spots will be occupied by a backup catcher. Martinez will get another, and Gyorko a third. The Cards would like a left-handed bat to take the other one, so that helps Drew Robinson's chances. That could leave O'Neill (and Yairo Muñoz) on the outside looking in.
As for Martinez, not only will he be the primary backup option at the corner outfield spots, but he'll be a player the Cards prioritize for playing time.
What are your thoughts on the influence of Jose Oquendo and Willie McGee on the Cardinals defense in 2018? Do you think it will continue to improve this year?
-- Alex W. (@Winks93), via Twitter

Without question, Oquendo and McGee were valuable voices on the coaching staff, though their impact was seen largely on an individual level. Harrison Bader, for instance, engaged McGee constantly as he worked to improve defensively. Marcell Ozuna and Fowler, less so. Oquendo has long had a strong relationship with Kolten Wong, and Oquendo's work with Paul DeJong on positioning and reaction helped the shortstop take great strides last season.
The Cardinals' defense did take a collective step forward from 2017 to '18, and I'd expect another this year. That's mostly because of personnel, though. Adding a Gold Glove first baseman in Paul Goldschmidt and earmarking a full season's worth of playing time for Bader will make this a better fielding team.
Jen, do you see the Cardinals making any more bullpen additions between now and Opening Day?
-- Mike (@Ironmike0509), via Twitter

I do. I think we're going to soon see a flurry of Minor League deals handed out, and I expect the Cardinals to jump on those opportunities. These sorts of signings eliminate the need to open immediate roster space, and there's minimal risk involved. Bud Norris, Carlos Villanueva and Pat Neshek are among those who turned a Minor League contract into bullpen jobs with the Cards in recent years. The saturation of the relief market will lead to some bargain finds again.
Any news on Michael Wacha's health going into Spring Training?
-- @crew_stl, via Twitter

Only good news. Wacha recently began his throwing program, and he's had a normal offseason as far as training goes. Though he missed the entire second half of last season, the fact that it was an oblique injury (unrelated to his shoulder) gives everyone confidence that it was a one-time issue. Wacha projects to be a part of the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, and with free agency awaiting him at the end of the year, he has plenty of motivation to prove he can be healthy for a full season.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.