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As winter meetings arrive, Cardinals warm to pitching market

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

When members of Mike Shildt's major-league staff begin contacting position players next week to discuss reports delivered this week and discuss how they'll prepare for this spring, the information will all be individualized, but the first question won't be.

"It's always going to be: 'What do you think?'" Shildt, the Cardinals' manager, said Saturday.

Shildt and his staff have spent the opening weeks of the offseason auditing, evaluating and number-crunching performances from 2019 with a focus on how to upgrade, player by player, for 2020. That work has produced reviews for each player that "capture the information we hope without inundating people," Shildt explained. The reports offer information on what each player did well, some aspects where a player struggled, analytics that support both, and then areas of discussion for how preparation this winter could lead to improvements for summer.

They're meant to be conversation starters, and as the Cardinals plot their offseason moves they're as important to the team as any of the front office's ongoing conversations.

As Major League Baseball, its clubs, their front offices, and the million-footed beast of the baseball industry descend on San Diego for this week's annual winter meetings, the Cardinals continue to operate on parallel tracks. To address their offense -- which was the lowest-scoring of any playoff team -- they are looking for improvement from within. They insist they have depth.

To fortify their pitching -- the strength that won the National League Central title -- they cannot ignore the talent available from outside. Not when they aren't sure of their depth.

 

Unlike the cold stare that gripped baseball's free-agent market the previous two Decembers, there's been a thaw before San Diego.

As prelude to the meetings, a handful of starting pitchers signed a variety of deals that reveal the scope of available talent. Kyle Gibson, a former Mizzou starter, finalized a deal with Texas that reportedly is worth $28 million over three years. Zack Wheeler, a darling of advanced pitching metrics, signed a five-year deal worth $118 million, while veteran lefty Cole Hamels received a one-year, $18-million deal from Atlanta.

This weekend, righthander Jordan Lyles, who rescued his sinking season with a 2.45 ERA and seven wins in 11 starts for Milwaukee, reportedly reached a two-year, $18-million contract with the Rangers. Those four signings already illustrate the bandwidth of options available this winter -- especially when it comes to the level of certainty and the commitment of years.

There's a pitcher for every price point, and the Cardinals are comparative shopping. They've waded into a deep pool.

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