NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- While the Cardinals seek external ways to improve their offense, most notably with their pursuit of Jason Heyward, they are also looking to better maximize the offensive pieces already in place.
It was a topic that dominated manager Mike Matheny's session with the media on Wednesday, the final day of the Winter Meetings. He and general manager John Mozeliak have previously discussed the expectation of seeing individual improvements from several players, but Matheny acknowledged that the club can also play an integral role in that.
After a year in which they watched injuries puncture holes in the Major League roster, and the overuse of the team's healthy players result in fatigue, the club is exploring ways to circumvent those issues again.
The obvious solution is giving players more rest, and that's something the Cardinals have prioritized with their recent acquisitions of Jedd Gyorko and Brayan Pena. Gyorko offers Matheny a right-handed hitter who can slot in at any of the four infield positions. Pena gives the club a more bona fide backup-catching option, which should reduce the resistance to resting Yadier Molina.
"I think we went in last year with the same kind of goals and ideas of being able to have a lot of depth to where we can go and rest guys at certain times," Matheny acknowledged. "You get in the middle of a fight, and especially the kind of games we had to play last year, it seemed like every one of them we were just kind of hanging on for our life. Having a little more depth is something that was definitely learned."
Molina's usage has been a perennial topic for some time now, and with the Gold Glove catcher set to turn 34 next season, the Cardinals may finally be forced to act more intentionally in scheduling days off for him. The fact that Molina's last two seasons have ended in injury have only heightened the calls for the Cardinals to corral his workload.
Then there's the job of convincing Molina -- or any player, for that matter -- to welcome such time off.
"You're trying to almost rewire something that's been programmed into these players," Matheny said. "So we're balancing that with, 'What do we think's best for the long term for our club and for these guys, no matter where they are?' So it's a tough sell. But I think, as we talk about getting better, we can't close our eyes to information that may help us get better."
That information is become more data-driven, Mozeliak later clarified, noting that the front office will do more in the future to find empirical ways to measure the fatigue factor and what could be contributing to it. Mozeliak cited travel and game times as influences that must be considered.
Taking full advantage of their personnel by finding optimal lineup configurations will also be in play. Matheny said he will be open to considering new looks through a trial-and-error process, which will begin in Spring Training.
"We throw some stuff out there and see what sticks and try to figure out where we have the greatest need, where we have the ability to maximize where a certain guy is," Matheny said. "Give them the chance to achieve the things they want to achieve over the winter before we start putting in concrete what our lineup looks like. Just let them go improve."