Cardinals: What if John Mozeliak stands pat?

What if St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak stands pat? Wait, let me back up a bit. 

Welcome to the Hot Stove, ladies and gents. You don't need oven mitts and burners for this winter session where the general managers and owners take the field to form their rosters for the forthcoming season. Just an open mind and an ability to handle disappointment. 

Case in point. There were people who found a reason to complain that Mozeliak spent $30 million plus on a reliever and not an outfielder on Saturday. The same crowd who complained the guy didn't go hard enough for previous free agents will torch him for picking up the best lefthanded reliever on the market not named Chapman. It's the nature of the beast. 

Now, the question exists. What happens now? What will Mozeliak go after to continue to fortify the 2017 roster now that the Chicago Cubs are the defending champions of not only the National League Central Division or National League entirely, but the World Series title holders. 

The Cardinals needed a reliever, and that is why Mozeliak saw a clear target in Brett Cecil, a guy who has been lights out since 2013 when he switched to relief. He doesn't just replace Zach Duke. He's an upgrade and a weapon that takes pressure off Kevin Siegrist. 

The Cardinals also need an outfielder, and you've already read a hundred articles on who is out there and who is good, bad, or ugly. Trust me, I'm the author of a few of those pieces. Let's put the Dexter Fowler and Charlie Blackmon pipe dreams on hold and table the Lorenzo Cain candy lands for the time being. Let's think like Mo. 

If there isn't a fish out there that fits, what else can he bring in to stabilize a roster that struggled to put the simplest facets of the game together in 2016. 

Yoenis Cespedes can slug like few others, but slugging wasn't a problem last year. The Cardinals finished top five in slugging and home runs in the National League. 

Fowler and Blackmon give the Cards speed and on base percentage at the top of the lineup, but don't they already possess that in Aledmys Diaz and Matt Carpenter? I think so. Those two guys wouldn't help the defensive issues in the outfield. They would be upgrades in the field over Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss, but so would a couple trees. 

Cain would surely help an outfield that didn't save many runs in 2016, but at what price and for how long? Bringing in a player nearing the end of a contract is a Mo type thing (Holliday, Jason Heyward), but it has backfired in recent years. Cain has one year left, is over 30 years old, and is coming off a worrisome wrist injury. He's barely played 140 games in a season. The Kansas City Royals would want a pitching load in return, and do the Cards honestly have that? After losing Tim Cooney and Ryan Sherriff this past weekend and needing to rebuild their Memphis arsenal, the Cards may not have the pitching prospects to deal right now. 

What I'm getting at is simple. What if Mozeliak decides to stand still? What if he is the guy who sits down at the table and wants to wait out the other players and see where his hand of cards take him? Does this mean do nothing more? No. It just means a blockbuster trade or big signing may not happen. 

Do you really want to hand Fowler five years and $85 million? Do you want to play Cespedes $125 million? Do you want to hand your farm system to Colorado for Blackmon or A.J. Pollock? It's going to cost in a dry free agent market. Will Mo spend for something that may not be worth the squeeze? Go ahead and rush to call him cheap. 

The Cards could go cheap and reach for a former lion like Carlos Gomez and hope he finds 2014 form. They could welcome the troubled Colby Rasmus into the fray. Does that sound appetizing? If so, find some bleach.

Perhaps this is just a reaction to recent offseasons. The Heyward trade was an aggressive reaction to the death of Oscar Taveras. Before that, it was the Holliday trade midseason. It's not a likely event. 

Here's a proposition. Let's say the Cardinals make a move to please the blood hungry society of Cardinals nation. Does that make them a legit contender to close the gap and catch the Cubs in the Central? Does it really help them immediately? The Cards finished behind the Cubs by double digits. One player can't change that. 

The wildcard is still the probable destination for the Cardinals in 2017 whether they grab an outfielder from this pool or not. Next winter will be juicier for free agents. As my fellow Cards scribe Corey Rudd pointed out last week, be prepared for the Cards to stand pat with a couple low key moves. 

As I write this, Mo could be planning some dark horse mission to acquire a big bat or game changing glove. It's not out of the realm of possibility. He could tell Frank Cusumano on the radio Friday that there is a bigger chance of Frank playing the outfield for the Cards than Blackmon, but he could be actually on the phone with Colorado at the same time. It's the nature of suits to dangle a scenario or two to protect their big picture. 

Will I be okay with the Cards holding their ground? Right away, probably not. I'll get angry and desire change. However, after a few good bottles of whiskey and a long walk, I'll once again find Mozeliak's move to be the right one. He doesn't make moves that pay off right away. They formulate, settle in, and slowly develop. Look at the Mike Leake deal. Right now, it's terrible. Some better defense behind him, and it may be a genius move in a year. Waiting is never easy for fans or even writers, but it may be the right move. 

It's still early. Mozeliak acquired Jhonny Peralta during Thanksgiving. That was a pretty significant move. Maybe there's another big deal yet to happen. Maybe not. 

Somewhere in your red blooded hot stove, be open to the possibility that a big roster overhaul or situation changing move may not happen this winter. 

Thanks for reading, and as always email me your disputes, thoughts, and tender words of love @ me on Twitter or by email, buffa82@gmail.com. 


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