St. Louis Cardinals: Sunshine State is this winter’s tale

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 16: General Manager John Mozeliak (L) and owner William DeWitt, Jr. of the St. Louis Cardinals speak at a press conference at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 16: General Manager John Mozeliak (L) and owner William DeWitt, Jr. of the St. Louis Cardinals speak at a press conference at Roger Dean Stadium on February 16, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /

St. Louis Cardinals management is going to wear out the aisles on flights to and from Florida this winter, as virtually everything the team needs — coaches, players, prospects and meetings — is available from the Sunshine State.

Let’s go backwards on that list to figure out how this all might unfold over the coming months for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The winter meetings in December will be at Walt Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort this time around. So not only will John Mozeliak, the Cards’ president of baseball operations, and team GM Mike Girsch be able to wheel and deal, but they might take in the new Pandora area at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

But enough about fictional flying blue animals. Those meetings might be of paramount importance this off-season, as the Cards are in, dare we say, fairly urgent need to upgrade their roster from outside the organization.

There’s a fair amount of talent available on the free agent market, and I’m sure management will be meeting with agents galore. However, the question is, how much of the available pool matches up with the Cards’ needs?

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Mozeliak has said the closer the team has need for may well come from free agency, while the big bat they covet is more likely to arrive via trade.

But Florida teams hold the promise of delivering both, and perhaps a starter while they’re at it.

Only an hour away from Orlando lies the state’s West Coast, home to the Rays. Tampa holds promise on several fronts, and especially for solving both starter and reliever needs.

In this weekend’s, writer Mark Topkin addresses several potential moves for the Rays. A couple that seem particularly interesting for the Cards are starter Jake Odorizzi and closer Alex Colome.

Odorizzi has a couple of arbitration years coming, and while injuries hampered his performance this year, he still managed an above-average campaign. Of course, prior years hinted at his promise as a solid number two starter, and he’s only 27, suggesting some real potential for the next several years.

Colome is 29, and has had two exceptionally strong closer years, with three more campaigns until his free agency arrives. The Rays wouldn’t sell low on Colome, obviously, but their other needs, coupled with their bullpen depth, could open the door.

These two together would strongly round out what the St. Louis Cardinals desire, namely, a proven closer coupled with rotation depth. And if neither is available, there’s a pitching free agent in Tampa, Alex Cobb, who Mo and Mike could make a play for to replace the probably departing Lance Lynn.

Moving over to the East Coast Fish, the Miami Marlins have the “Big Three” outfielders, the juggernaut Giancarlo Stanton, and the only stellar Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. The St. Louis Cardinals have openly coveted any one of those players for some time now.

It’s not likely we’ll see Stanton here, but with the new Fox Sports Midwest deal and some freed up salary from Lynn and (this summer’s) Mike Leake departure, heck, anything is possible. And even in the absence of a play for Stanton, the other two provide very strong and proven capabilities in the outfield.

If the Cards have question marks about the ability of Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty to make the everyday grade, and if they aren’t convinced any of their prospects such as Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill or Magneuris Sierra are ready, then a play for one of the Miami outfield corps makes perfect sense.

The Marlins probably aren’t a good starter trade partner, but in the elder Brad Ziegler, who has one year left on his deal, or the former Cards draftee Kyle Barraclaugh, who isn’t a free agent til 2022, the Fish have some pieces that might be throw-ins to an outfield deal and help the Cards with bullpen depth issues.

Players aren’t the only bounty that Florida provides the team. Right now several teams appear ready to bite on former Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey. A well-regarded adopter of modern quantitative methods, Hickey worked with Joe Maddon when the latter was Rays’ manager, so the Cubs may have an inside track. Hickey has already interviewed with both the Cards and Red Sox.

And we all know who has lurked in Florida, choosing to instruct younger Cardinal farmhands: The Secret Weapon, Jose Oquendo. Many have wondered if he can be lured back to St. Louis to help polish, refine and maintain the big league club’s fundamentals.

With the departure of bench coach David Bell for San Francisco’s system, and with Oquendo now apparently in better physical health and able to withstand the rigors of a regular travel schedule, perhaps there’s a possibility of seeing Jose back in St. Louis.

Next: Big bat prospects

It’s certainly going to be an interesting offseason, and the Sunshine State appears to comprise a big part of it. Whether the Cards can go Fishing in the Rays of Florida sunshine remains to be seen, but there’s no question they intend to set their lures and see what comes out of the ocean or the bay.