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Cardinals still going after Plan A in Jason Heyward

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The Cardinals have not made any major deals this offseason, but Jason Heyward remains a free agent and the Cardinals' top target.

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The Cardinals have made more news this offseason for missing out on players rather than getting them. They made a huge offer to David Price only to see an even larger offer by the Boston Red Sox get the ace signed. They might have had some interest in Jeff Samardzija before he signed a $90 million contract with the Giants. The team let former Cardinals player John Lackey go to the rival Cubs despite a relatively modest two-year offer, choosing a compensation pick and flexibility over the durable Lackey. While the Cardinals have missed their targets thus far, the team is still pursuing Jason Heyward, as Richard Justice reported on MLB Tonight.

The cardinals hope to know by the time they leave here on Thursday—not to have Jason Heyward signed—but they hope to know where they stand, if it is time to go to Plan B. Right now, he is Plan A.

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Right now Jason Heyward is the focus.

Heyward's market has been slower to develop as the pitching market has gone at light-speed. Justice's comments on the Cardinals' approach with Heyward echo those of Derrick Goold, who wrote this morning that the Cardinals were seeking "a compass heading for their talks with outfielder Jason Heyward" and Mozeliak spoke of getting "a lot more clarity on some things."

While Jordan Zimmerman, David Price, and Zack Greinke signed deals in excess of $100 million each and Jeff Samardzija, J.A. Happ, John Lackey, Chris Young, and Hisashi Iwakuma have all signed multi-year deals, it might appear at first glance that the offseason has passed by the Cardinals a bit. This is in sharp contrast to previous offtseasons when the Cardinals acquired Jason Heyward and Johnny Peralta before the winter meetings even took place. This is the Cardinals first meaningful winter meetings in several years, and there is still a lot of business to be done and a lot of players still available.

When FanGraphs crowdsourced contracts early in the offseason, they ranked 82 players. A few position players, like Colby Rasmus and Matt Wieters, accepted their qualifying offers and returned to their current teams. Outside of those players, the highest-ranked position player who has signed a free agent contract is the 42nd ranked Nori Aoki. Alex Gordon, Chris Davis, Justin Upton, and most importantly Jason Heyward is still available, and Heyward remains the focus for the Cardinals at the winter meetings.

While it might feel slightly frustrating to see big names get signed with the Cardinals failing to put up the best offer, the best player available is still out there, and the Cardinals are going after him. Based on the statements from John Mozeliak, the Cardinals could very well leave the winter meetings without making a significant addition. The market for Jason Heyward is not developing the same way as the market for pitching, but it should gain some momentum during the winter meetings and hope for a resolution in the next week or so.

Heading into the offseason, Jason Heyward needed to be the Cardinals focus and the lack of activity should not be discouraging. That the Cardinals have yet to act is a reflection on Jason Heyward's market as well as the Cardinals focus on retaining their excellent right-fielder. David Price was an interesting distraction, but high-end pitching at free agent prices is an easy way to end up with regret. Just as he has as soon as the season ended, Jason Heyward continues to define the Cardinals offseason.