NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a season of courting Jason Heyward and weeks of trying to woo him with their best offer, the Cardinals believe clarity is on the horizon in an outfield market that has generated merely rumors to this point.
General manager John Mozeliak arrived in Nashville on Sunday expecting to see some movement on the position-player side soon, this after a week of watching starting pitching come off the free-agent board. And that could bring the Cardinals to a crossroads, as re-signing Heyward remains the team's biggest offseason objective.
"I'm not exactly sure what or who the lynchpin is, but I do expect this week that you're going to see some players sign, and I think that is going to give us some clarity," Mozeliak said. "Timing of these things, some things go rather quickly and some don't. It does seem that the major force prior to the Winter Meetings starting, the major focus was pitching. And now that that's starting to bring complete closure, I would expect this is the next market to move."
Mozeliak said he has had an "open dialogue" with Heyward's representatives since free agency opened and will continue to discuss a long-term deal that would bring the 26-year-old back to St. Louis. Those overtures have included a face-to-face meeting with Heyward, as well as pitches from some of his teammates.
There is not necessarily the need to sell St. Louis to Heyward, who has said he thoroughly enjoyed his first season in a Cardinals uniform. The uncertainty is in how much interest he's drawing from other clubs and whether Heyward sees it as beneficial to wait out the market for the chance that more suitors come knocking.
Mozeliak assured that the Cardinals are not precluded from pursuing other players while they await Heyward's decision. He described the organization as "perfectly functional" while those negotiations play out, and that is evident in the strong run the Cards recently made at signing free-agent starter David Price.
The Cardinals reportedly made Price a contract offer in excess of $180 million before the left-hander opted to sign with the Red Sox last week. With Price off the board and the top end of the starting-pitching market thinning, the Cardinals appear increasingly content moving forward with their internal options or a less-distinguished free-agent option to fill the fifth-starter spot.
"We went into this offseason with some optimism that we could land the big one, and, unfortunately, that didn't work out," Mozeliak said, referring to Price. "But when you look at what's out there and as we perceive what would make sense for us, it's not something that's screaming for us to do [something]."
Asked if he saw it as a necessity that the Cardinals add a starting pitcher this offseason, Mozeliak replied, "No, I don't."
However, he later acknowledged that health concerns regarding current members of the Cardinals' rotation will lead the club to consider an external addition for depth purposes. What St. Louis does not seem compelled to do, though, is give up a lot -- whether that's in terms of dollars (free agent) or players (trade) -- for a back-end-type starter.
"I just feel like what we have internally might be better off than what we have to give up," Mozeliak said.
Just as the Cardinals moved on from Price by focusing their efforts on not-as-glitzy starting options, Mozeliak indicated the club may not sign another impact hitter out of the free-agent market should St. Louis be outbid for Heyward.
While speaking to reporters from his hotel suite early Monday evening, Mozeliak said multiple times that he felt comfortable with the team's internal options at right field and first base. Those include Brandon Moss, Matt Adams and Stephen Piscotty.
Mozeliak added that it's "probably unlikely" the club will sign a free-agent first baseman this offseason, which suggests the Cardinals do not see Chris Davis as a fallback option if Heyward lands elsewhere.
"Again, things might change if something else doesn't happen, so it's not a blanket no or a blanket yes," Mozeliak said. "But I do feel like we have some level of confidence with Adams and Moss as protection."
The Cardinals will spend the next few days also seeking to address their need for a super utility player. With underwhelming options on the free-agent market, the club is exploring trade possibilities for an infielder who could serve as a backup at multiple positions.
That player does not have to offer shortstop coverage, Mozeliak said, since Greg Garcia could serve as a backup behind Jhonny Peralta. The Cardinals do not see Aledmys Diaz as ready for this role just yet, despite his strong finish to the season and impressive Arizona Fall League showing.