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Inbox: What are Cardinals' plans for closer?

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

ST. LOUIS -- With 2017 coming to an end, let me take one more opportunity to thank all of you for your interaction, feedback and interest in the coverage all year long. May 2018 bring joy and blessings to you and your family -- as well as another exciting year of Cardinals baseball. Now, onto your questions:

What are the team's plans at the closer position?
-- Noah D., Poplar Bluff, Mo.

ST. LOUIS -- With 2017 coming to an end, let me take one more opportunity to thank all of you for your interaction, feedback and interest in the coverage all year long. May 2018 bring joy and blessings to you and your family -- as well as another exciting year of Cardinals baseball. Now, onto your questions:

What are the team's plans at the closer position?
-- Noah D., Poplar Bluff, Mo.

The Cards would still like to add a closer before the Hot Stove season ends. Manager Mike Matheny made a pitch for it when, during the Winter Meetings, he emphasized the benefit of having "experience" in the ninth inning. The front office agrees.

Alex Colome remains the most likely target, after Wade Davis signed a three-year contract with the Rockies. Colome, though, would cost the team in prospects. The club could also try to sign free agent Greg Holland, who tied for the National League lead with 41 saves in 2017. 

Hot Stove Tracker

St. Louis does not view Alex Reyes as a permanent solution for the closer's role next year. He is likely to open the season in the bullpen (as a way to manage his innings), and he could be a key late-innings arm. But the Cards also want to maintain flexibility so they can move Reyes into the rotation when needed.

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Will the Cards stick with Randal Grichuk, who seems to have one of the highest upsides in the league at just 26 years old?
-- Nate J.

Yes, Grichuk is still young. And yes, he does still tease with the bat speed, power and above-average defense he offers. But the Cardinals have also given Grichuk several chances to stick as an everyday player, and the consistency just hasn't been there from him. If the right offer comes along, St. Louis would consider dealing Grichuk. But for now, the club is prepared to slide him into a backup role.

With the acquisition of Marcell Ozuna, the Cardinals' outfield has taken shape. Ozuna, Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham will enter Spring Training projected as the three starters. Though Grichuk will see a salary spike this offseason as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, the Cards see a fit for him as a fourth outfielder. He can provide coverage at all three outfield spots, and his power could play nicely off the bench.

Video: Ozuna on trade to Cardinals, glad to be on a winner

Now that we have Ozuna, do you think the organization will attempt to extend him beyond two years? Money should not be a problem for this organization.
-- David N.

You are correct; money is not a problem for the Cardinals. They have ample payroll flexibility, as well as a financial windfall coming with the start of their new billion-dollar TV rights deal next year.

Ozuna will be arbitration eligible for the next two seasons, so the Cardinals don't have to worry about him going elsewhere until after the 2019 season. He'd be entering his age-29 season at that time, which, barring a dive in production, should position him as a premier free agent. While the Cardinals would prefer to lock up Ozuna for the long term before another 29 teams have a shot to do the same, they'll also likely want to give it some time. That way they can see if Ozuna is worth the investment, and they can give St. Louis a chance to sell itself to the outfielder. Perhaps it becomes a conversation they start having with him next offseason.

I heard recently that Ozuna is a lock for left field. Is this true? My understanding is that Ozuna has an outstanding arm. We haven't had a plus arm in right field since Jason Heyward was a Cardinal. Do you have any insight into how the Cardinals intend to deploy their outfielders defensively?
-- Matt B., DeSoto, Mo.

John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations for the Cardinals, confirmed during the Winter Meetings that Pham is set to get the first opportunity as the team's starting center fielder. Fowler told the organization that he'd prefer to shift to right, and Ozuna will be slotted in as the left fielder, where he won a Gold Glove Award in 2017.

I'm interested as to what the current thoughts are regarding playing time with the infield as currently constructed. Is everyone a semi-regular aside from Paul DeJong's everyday role?
-- Joe L.

Some of the Cardinals' plans remain in flux, as the infield dynamic would change if the Cardinals acquire another bat. It's safe to assume, though, that both DeJong and Matt Carpenter will open the season as everyday players. Kolten Wong likely will, too.

Now, there could be a scenario in which Carpenter shifts between third and first base, allowing Jedd Gyorko or Jose Martinez to get playing time depending on matchups. He could slot in at second, too, if Wong doesn't offer the expected production. Right now, the Cardinals can benefit from the positional flexibility as they consider additional offseason acquisitions.

A month from now, we should have a better idea of how the infield alignment will look on Opening Day.

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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