ST. LOUIS -- After weeks of staying (at least loosely) connected to the high-end starting pitchers available in this winter's free-agent market, the Cardinals, as general manager John Mozeliak maintained they would, ultimately stood pat with the rotation pieces already in place.
With James Shields agreeing to a four-year deal with the Padres on Sunday night, the three starters considered to be gems of this free-agent class have each found their new homes. Jon Lester went to the Cubs in December, while Max Scherzer left to join the Nationals last month. The Cardinals did explore the markets for Lester, Scherzer and Shields, though the organization was not one of the final bidders for any of the three.
In Shields' case, the Cardinals' interest in the 33-year-old was often exaggerated. Though they stayed engaged so as to keep a pulse on Shields' market, the Cards were not overly enthusiastic about their being a fit for the right-hander.
Instead, St. Louis stuck with its rotation candidates. Those include three proven starters (Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn), another two (Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha) returning from injury and two others (Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales) on the rise. The Cardinals also recently signed veteran right-hander Carlos Villanueva to a Minor League deal to give them additional pitching depth in case of injury or ineffectiveness.
That was the route Mozeliak suggested he would go as far back as the Winter Meetings, when he downplayed the organization's need to pursue another top-of-the-rotation arm. Positive medical updates on Wacha, Garcia and Wainwright since then only further affirmed that position.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.