The St. Louis Cardinals came into the Winter Meetings with their team by and large set. There was the potential to add a complementary piece or two, either at the Winter Meetings or later in the offseason. One of the Cardinals' priorities entering this week and for the remainder of the offseason, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch, was a righthanded-hitting bench bat to complement Matt Adams and, perhaps, Jason Heyward:
While the Cardinals see this as an opportunistic approach, there is more of a definitive need to add a right-handed-hitting first baseman. That would address the final deficiency on the position player side. The pool to pick from is thin, however, and the Cardinals are finding it tough to sell a part-time role to players who are seeing if an everyday job is available elsewhere.
Finding a player who can bring power and/or positional versatility in this role would be a plus.
"I think that's a tough market right now," Mozeliak said. "When you look at how many at-bats we can offer, where we can get them from excluding any injury, it's not a lot. It's a tough message that we're sending."
As reported by STL Baseball Weekly's Brian Stull, manager Mike Matheny expanded on what Mozeliak shared regarding the club's desires for a bench bat:
"I think any help we can get from the right side, coming off the bench or being able to maybe spell definitely at first base, and possibly in right field, but that may be something we have internally as well," said Matheny. "We have a couple of good candidates. Randall (Grichuk) has shown that he can put together a very good at‑bat if that’s the way our team breaks. So I think we have more coverage in the outfield than we do necessarily at first base. So that is something that we continue to try to open all of the doors that are out there."
Joe broke down on Wednesday, the Cardinals' intra-organizational discussions about trying top prospect Stephen Piscotty out at first base. But, as Langosch shares, that hasn't stopped St. Louis from exploring alternatives:
Even amid dialogue about in-house candidates, the Cardinals continue to focus their free-agent search on bringing someone else in from the outside. Mozeliak met with multiple agents representing right-handed hitters on Tuesday as he continues that pursuit.
The club is not near an agreement with any of them, nor did the Cardinals sound like a team expecting to act during their two remaining days in San Diego.
"I think everybody is sort of in that exploratory mode right now," Mozeliak said. "Everybody is trying to feel everybody out with what's going on. So subsequently, time will tell how some of these things shake out."
Sources have described the Cardinals as interested in two former Milwaukee Brewers who would bring different skills to the role — Rickie Weeks and Mark Reynolds. Both are free agents.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweeted about the Cards' interest in Weeks and Reynolds as well.
Cards not only showing interest in Rickie Weeks but also Mark Reynolds. They certainly saw a lot of the former #Brewers.— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 10, 2014
I'm interpreting this as Goold and Hauricourt confirming one another's reports.*
Both Weeks and Reynolds fit the bill of a lefty-mashing complement to the Cards' lefthander-heavy lineup of position players.
- Over his 11-year career, Weeks had notched 1,274 plate appearances against portsiders, hitting .261/.385/.448 (.370 wOBA, 128 wRC+). That 14.5% career walk rate versus lefthanders is pretty remarkable.
- In many ways, Reynolds is the antithesis of the Cardinals' offenses of recent vintage: power (.228 Isolated Power in his career) and strikeouts (career 31.9% K rate). But he has taken 1,199 plate appearances versus lefthanders and posted a line of .231/.351/.458 (.352 wOBA, 114 wRC+).
The infield-centric nature of these reported inquires indicates that the Cards are intent on having Grichuk as the fifth outfielder come opening day with Stephen Piscotty, who is not on the 40-man roster, starting the year in Triple-A. If Weeks is willing and able to man first base, as well as potentially second and third (if not the outfield) on occasion, I think I'd prefer him to Reynolds. But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The talks are likely only in the exploratory phase and perhaps even of the same due-diligence nature as the communication with Jon Lester's representatives. Nonetheless, they merit monitoring.