Cards have financial flexibility heading to Meetings

Club's needs include right fielder/first baseman, starting pitcher, utility player

Cards have financial flexibility heading to Meetings

ST. LOUIS -- While tangible results have been limited in the Cardinals' Hot Stove season thus far, the organization remains ambitious in its offseason pursuits and ready to soon pounce. That movement could well come next week, when members of all 30 Major League organizations descend upon Nashville, Tenn., for baseball's four-day Winter Meetings.

The Cardinals boast the financial flexibility to make more than one significant move, and their to-do list remains hefty, particularly with the November news that Lance Lynn will miss the 2016 season. Courting Jason Heyward back to St. Louis also remains a priority.

Though the Cardinals have shied away from taking center stage at the Winter Meetings since their unsuccessful negotiations with Albert Pujols in 2011, this seems poised to be the year when that changes.

Hot Stove Tracker

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.

Here is a review of the Cardinals' position heading into Nashville:

Club needs
Right fielder/first baseman: This could be solved by re-signing Heyward, something the Cardinals have made a priority since being eliminated from the postseason. Whether it's Heyward, Chris Davis, Justin Upton or someone else, the Cards are seeking a bat to fill either a right-field or first-base hole.

Where does Heyward fit best?

Starting pitcher: Reportedly the runner-ups in the pursuit of David Price, the Cardinals are turning elsewhere to augment a rotation that will be without Lynn in 2016. That's likely to take them into the middle tier of available free-agent starters, a group that includes Mike Leake. The priority, it seems, is to find someone who can eat a significant amount of innings in Lynn's absence.

Super-utility player: The Cardinals believe they can promise regular playing time to someone, but not a regular position. Of particular importance is finding a player who can fill in at both middle-infield positions. From there, the greater the versatility, the better the fit would be.

Bullpen help: The Cardinals have lost four of their relievers -- Carlos Villanueva, Matt Belisle, Jonathan Broxton and Steve Cishek -- to free agency and would like to reload this offseason. They don't necessarily need another late-inning arm, but they are short on left-handed options.

Who they can trade if necessary
Jon Jay: Jay is under contract for $6.225 million, and that salary figure will reduce interest in an outfielder seeking a bounce-back season in 2016. The Cards don't have an obvious fit for Jay in their outfield next year, not if they are able to look down an impact bat to complement Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. A wrist injury derailed Jay's 2015 season, but he has been a productive Major League center fielder before.

Matt Adams: Adams, too, was hampered by injury in 2015 and, as a result, will have to earn back playing time. The Cardinals are likely to use Piscotty regularly at first base if the club does not add a first baseman via the free-agent or trade markets. However, as a team looking for power, the Cardinals may be hesitant to part with one of their most threatening power bats.

Top prospects
Per MLB.com, the Cardinals' Top 10 Prospects include right-hander Alex Reyes, righty Jack Flaherty, left-hander Marco Gonzales, outfielder Magneuris Sierra, shortstop Edmundo Sosa, outfielder Nick Plummer, outfielder Charlie Tilson, righty Luke Weaver, lefty Tim Cooney and righty Sam Tuivailala. The Cardinals would prefer not to deplete their farm system to address their winter needs, but, as they showed in dealing Rob Kaminsky at the Trade Deadline, they aren't entirely opposed to dealing top prospects.

Top Prospects: Reyes, STL

Rule 5 Draft
With 34 players on their 40-man roster, the Cardinals have plenty of open space to add a player in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. They will, however, be the last Major League team with a pick, so that reduces the likelihood of a selection.

The Cardinals did leave some of their Minor League players exposed for potential picking by other clubs. The most notable names on that list include Luis Perdomo (No. 11 prospect), Patrick Wisdom (No. 12) and Jacob Wilson (No. 17).

Big contracts they might unload
None.

Payroll summary
The Cardinals have great financial flexibility this winter, as indicated by their recent attempt to sign Price. They have been preparing for a bump in salary commitments and also have a lucrative television-rights deal about to kick in that will annually pour millions of additional money into the organization.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.