Mozeliak, Cards could be open to free agents

Mozeliak, Cards could be open to free agents

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Though the "Cardinal Way" typically hasn't involved being a big player in the free-agent market, general manager John Mozeliak acknowledges that recent circumstances might lead him down that path in upgrading his pitching staff.

This, after a trying few days in which the Cardinals first learned that highly touted righty Anthony Reyes has been suspended for 50 games. Then came Tuesday's bad news. Lance Lynn -- who has logged nearly 800 innings over the last four years -- will miss all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery.

There's no "woe is me" in the Cardinals front office. Instead, there is determination to push ahead and build yet another top contender, even if it means going down a different avenue.

"Like I was saying to the boys earlier, 'I think we're going to have no bad news today. Let's keep our chins up'. It's more like, 'How long can you take the body blows?'" Mozeliak said here on Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings. "That's why thinking about outside markets and understanding that maybe it's time to be more aggressive there might make sense."

Part of what makes Mozeliak so adept at team building is his flexibility, and his ability to read and react, even during times of adversity.

The $97.5 million contract Adam Wainwright signed with the Cards in 2013 is the biggest the club has ever given to a pitcher. To be in contention for the big four -- Zack Greinke, David Price, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann -- the price tag would be far higher than that.

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Why have the Cardinals resisted free agency in the past?

"For the most part, it's because we felt we had internal solutions," Mozeliak said. "In doing so, that allows you to avoid that market. We have gone out and signed a shortstop. I think the ideal way to manage a roster is when you can pick and choose when you need to be in these different markets."

What about re-signing veteran John Lackey, who received a qualifying offer last week but might want a multi-year deal?

"These are things I don't discuss publicly, but obviously he did a great job and we really enjoyed our time together," Mozeliak said. "With the injury that happened to Lance, obviously we have to be open to things."

The Cardinals like the depth of their young pitching, but they also know how important it is to have some tested veterans at the front of the rotation.

"It's not just innings. I do think we have innings coverage, especially given the experience that all of those guys got over the last two years," said Mozeliak. "Some of them didn't have all that much workload this year because of their own injuries. What I'm talking is, 'Do you have enough on the front end?' Pitchers get labeled as ones, twos, threes, fours and fives.

"What I'm trying to make sure of is we have the balance throughout that. When I say horsepower, it's a competitive division. I do think Carlos Martinez is one of those guys that's going to step up and be that type of pitcher. [Michael] Wacha, we certainly agree, is capable of that."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.