ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals are taking time to unpack an 88-win season and the individual performances that defined it, the organization is also pivoting to what's ahead. Though MLB's offseason won't commence for a few more weeks, here is a look at some of the key decisions and
ST. LOUIS -- While the Cardinals are taking time to unpack an 88-win season and the individual performances that defined it, the organization is also pivoting to what's ahead. Though MLB's offseason won't commence for a few more weeks, here is a look at some of the key decisions and dates that will guide the Cardinals' winter work.
1. Who will be a free agent?
Right-handers Bud Norris and Tyson Ross, catcher Francisco Pena and first baseman Matt Adams.
2. Are any likely to resign?
After expressing interest in continuing his career as a Cardinal, Wainwright has signed a one-year contract to pitch a 15th season for the club. None of the team's other pending free agents are priority signs.
3. How will these departures affect payroll flexibility?
The only significant payroll impact will come via an assumed reduction in pay for Wainwright, who earned $19.5 million each of the past five seasons. His $97.5 million contract is now paid in full. The other four players accounted for only about $5 million on the Cardinals' 2018 payroll.
4. Will the Cardinals make any qualifying offers?
5. When will free agency open?
All eligible players will become free agents the day after the 2018 World Series ends. Players can start signing with other clubs five days after that date.
6. Who will be arbitration eligible?
The Cardinals will have five players eligible for arbitration: outfielder Marcell Ozuna, starter Michael Wacha, relievers Dominic Leone and Chasen Shreve and infielder Greg Garcia. Ozuna, who made $9 million in 2018, and Wacha, who had a salary of $5.3 million, will be in their final year of arbitration eligibility.
7. Are any of those players non-tender candidates?
Garcia could be. The Cardinals found another super-utility player in Yairo Munoz, and they should have Jedd Gyorko as another reserve infielder assuming the organization adds a corner infielder this winter. Keeping Garcia could create too much repetition on the roster. He brings value as a left-handed hitter, but Garcia also handcuffs the club's roster flexibility because he is out of options.
8. What is the non-tender deadline?
9. Who do the Cardinals need to protect from the Rule 5 Draft?
A number of the Cardinals' prospects will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if the club does not put them on the 40-man roster. Those susceptible to being exposed include Ryan Helsley (No. 4), Max Schrock (No. 11), Genesis Cabrera (No. 13), Junior Fernandez (No. 14), Ramon Urias (No. 20) and Wadye Ynfante (No. 23).
10. How much flexibility does the club have with its 40-man roster?
The Cardinals' 40-man roster is currently full, though five spots will open when the aforementioned players declare for free agency after the World Series. However, four of those openings will be needed for the Cardinals to remove Alex Reyes, Wacha, Luke Gregerson and William Fowler from the 60-day disabled list. That doesn't leave a lot of other room, which is why St. Louis will need to do additional clearing.
11. What's on the wish list?
After missing the postseason for a third straight year, the Cardinals have a lengthy to-do list. It starts with revamping the bullpen (again) and looking for an impact hitter (again) -- this time, likely to fit at right field or third base. The organization would like to better balance its roster with another left-handed bat, and it has to decide if another high-end starting pitcher is worth chasing. Improving the defense is also a priority.
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.