ST. LOUIS -- Before diving into a series of reader of questions, let me first thank you for coming to MLB.com all season to get your Cardinals news. You are the reason we strive to provide exhaustive coverage of each club, and I hope you found the content to be complete and thought-provoking.
With the Cardinals' offseason now a few weeks old and the Hot Stove season simmering, it's a good time to resurrect the Inbox, which will be a regular feature over the next couple of months. Since the free-agent market is set to open at the end of the day on Friday, we'll make that the starting point for this week's topics.
Let's start with the obvious question: Will Jason Heyward return to the Cardinals? If he does re-sign, will the Cardinals make any other big splashes in free agency? If Heyward doesn't return, where do the Cardinals look next in free agency?
-- Joey R., St. Louis
Let's start with what we know as facts: The Cardinals want Heyward back and have expressed that publicly. In turn, Heyward has said that he thoroughly enjoyed his first season with the organization. The Cardinals, as owner Bill DeWitt has assured, have the financial resources to make a competitive offer and handle an increase in payroll.
But there are several questions still outstanding: What is Heyward seeking in terms of length and value of contract? What parameters have the Cardinals set for potential offers? How many other teams will be involved in the same pursuit?
I do believe the Cardinals will make a strong offer for Heyward, one that, if accepted, would likely be the largest the organization has given to a free agent. But, as the club showed in the Albert Pujols negotiations a few years back, they won't be reckless in their pursuit. Signing Heyward wouldn't preclude the Cardinals from other big moves, particularly as the team looks to improve its offensive profile. If Heyward does not return, the urgency to find an impact bat to plug in at first base or right field is only augmented.
Is there any chance that if the Cardinals lose Heyward that they switch gears and go after Chris Davis and move Stephen Piscotty to right field?
-- Joshua B., Chickamauga, Ga.
Piscotty's flexibility is a big plus as the Cardinals develop contingency plans in case of Heyward's departure. His strong half-season showing with the big league team has Piscotty positioned to be a starter next season for the Cardinals. Whether that's at first base or right field will depend on the team's offseason activity. The Cardinals will open their search for a bat to include first baseman if Heyward does not re-sign, and yes, Davis, whose power potential greatly exceeds that of anyone in the organization, would be an intriguing option.
Even though the Cardinals' pitching was their strength this year, can someone like Johnny Cueto, David Price or Zack Greinke be considered? All of them are awesome options in the free agent market.
-- Oswaldo H., Venezuela
They may be awesome options, but they'll also be pricey ones. And as the Cardinals look at how to allocate their financial resources this offseason, improving their offense and bullpen takes precedence over the rotation. The team's recent decision to retain Jaime Garcia also lessened the likelihood that they'll add an elite starting pitcher. That's not to say the Cardinals won't test the market -- remember, they did so last season on a number of free-agent pitchers without much follow-up -- but I wouldn't expect the club to actually act on it.
Do you think there is a place for Matt Adams, and do you think he can be an everyday player in the Majors?
-- Rich G., New Orleans
We have seen Adams be an everyday player before, and he may well become one again. But I don't see that being the case in 2015, as long as he's still in St. Louis. The Cardinals need to add offense, and the most obvious place to do that is by adding a first baseman or right fielder. Piscotty then slides into the vacant opening, leaving Adams as an option off the bench.
Adams did play regularly in 2014, posting a .288 average that was the third-highest among National League first basemen (minimum 400 at-bats). But in that group, he also ranked eighth with a .321 on-base percentage, eighth with a .457 slugging percentage, 11th with 15 homers and ninth with 68 RBIs. It's OK production, but not elite production, and it tailed off in 2015. Not to mention, Adams has had particular trouble against lefties, too. To get those everyday at-bats again, Adams is going to have to earn them over time.
I've read a lot about the Cardinals crowded outfield and how a trade is necessary this offseason. Assuming that's true, which current outfielder has the best trade value, and which outfielder(s) is most likely to move?
-- Aaron L., St. Louis
Jay and Bourjos are the two outfielders who seem to lack much of a fit moving forward. The Cards may well non-tender Bourjos, though trading him would at least ensure the Cardinals get something back. Jay could be tough to trade since he is coming off an injury-plagued season and due $6.225 million in 2016. The Cardinals likely won't get a substantial return from a trade of either player, but perhaps they could address a secondary need by flipping players without an obvious future role for them.