ST. LOUIS -- With the Hot Stove season heating up and baseball's Winter Meetings on the horizon, let's get to another batch of reader questions in an effort to bring some clarity to the Cardinals' plans. Remember that to have your question considered for a future Inbox, please submit it along with your first name, last initial and hometown.
A lot of people want the Cards to get Ben Zobrist to be a super-utility player. But with Stephen Piscotty being able to play the corner-outfield spots and first base, do the Cardinals really need to pay for someone like Zobrist? I think getting someone who can just play third base, shortstop and second base seems less expensive, plus that would allow the Cardinals to get Piscotty more at-bats. What are your thoughts on the type of utility player the Cards need, and who fits in your mind?
-- Blake G., Abingdon, Ill.
Your two points don't have to be mutually exclusive. Remember, the Cardinals are seeking a super-utility-type player who can help them spell several starting position players. That player doesn't have to necessarily play corner outfield and first base, though it'd be an added bonus if he can. As the Cardinals see it, the greater the flexibility, the more appealing the option.
But of utmost importance, as you indicated, is finding someone who can provide sufficient coverage at both middle-infield spots. The Cardinals' internal backup options -- Greg Garcia and Aledmys Diaz -- aren't proven enough for a team that plans to be more proactive in resting starters Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong.
So where do the Cardinals turn? Zobrist would be an ideal fit, though if reports of his price tag sitting at four years and $60 million are accurate, that's not going to work for the Cardinals. Other options are much less underwhelming. Ian Desmond and Alexei Ramirez are among the players available who can play short, but the challenge for the Cardinals is convincing a player to take on a role that doesn't come with a promised position. That may lead the Cardinals to address this hole via trade.
With the need for pitching a priority and the Braves embracing the slow rebuild desiring youth, has there been any consideration in making a trade to get Shelby Miller back?
-- Dustin T., Cookeville, Tenn.
I am not aware of such interest on the Cardinals' end and wouldn't envision a match here. With Miller under the Braves' control for three more years and the widespread appeal for young pitching, Atlanta will not part with Miller unless it gets a hefty haul of talent in return. The Cardinals are unlikely to put together the sort of package that would draw Atlanta's interest.
What are the plans for Jon Jay? The outfield is set, and I see Tommy Pham backing up all three positions. That leaves little playing time for Jay. Does he have any value, or would the team be willing to eat part of his contract? Or would Pham have better trade value? I'd hate to lose him, especially if he is finally healthy.
-- Greg G., Oneida, Ill.
Jay's fit remains fuzzy, particularly with the Cardinals still active in the pursuit of Jason Heyward and other right-field options. On the surface, he doesn't seem to have much of a role moving forward. But while Jay is seemingly expendable, his poor performance in 2015, recent injury history and $6.225 million salary for 2016 all hurt the Cardinals' ability to try to deal him. He might be more valuable staying than leaving, in that case.
Even if the Cardinals re-sign Heyward, find another right fielder or move Piscotty there full time, there could be some flux in center. Randal Grichuk looks poised to get the first chance in center, but he still has to prove he can stay healthy for a full season. Having both Jay and Pham as other center-field options is feasible.
It's been two straight years that Yadier Molina has been injured during the playoffs and not even in the lineup in our elimination games. Is there any plan to limit his usage in the regular season so he can be healthy when it matters most?
-- Preston R., Wildwood, Mo.
This has been a perennial topic since I joined the Cardinals beat four years ago, and every year the Cardinals contend that they're going to be more proactive in giving Molina days off. To this point, however, they haven't. But the recent signing of Brayan Pena suggests that is about to change. The Cardinals made a $5 million commitment to a backup catcher so that they can better protect Molina from injury and over-usage.
Look for the Cardinals to also be more insistent with Molina that he take days off. Previously they had given the veteran catcher great say regarding his own playing time.
There's been nary a word about Pham this winter. Where does he fit into the scheme of things?
-- John C., Palm Bay, Fla.
Pham's 2015 performance positions him to slot in as an extra outfielder on the Major League roster next season. His ability to play all three outfield positions is key, as the Cardinals don't have an overabundance of center fielders now that Peter Bourjos is gone. Pham, like Grichuk, will have to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season.