Cardinals shift focus after missing out on Heyward

Cardinals shift focus after missing out on Heyward

ST. LOUIS -- Having had some time to digest another runner-up finish in their free-agent foray, general manager John Mozeliak said on Wednesday that the Cardinals are moving on from their missed pursuit of Jason Heyward by eyeing not another outfield addition, but rather some for their pitching staff.

That means the Cardinals are currently positioned to enter Spring Training with a projected starting outfield of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham provides additional depth, and Brandon Moss could slide to a corner spot, too, if he's not needed at first base.

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The preference to stand pat comes while several prominent free-agent outfielders remain on the market, among them Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Upton and Alex Gordon. But instead of moving the dollars they were willing to commit to Heyward and/or David Price this offseason, the Cardinals will resort back to the blueprint that has made them perennial World Series contenders.

"The last month has been trying to play in the big-boy pool, and unfortunately, we just didn't end up getting it done," Mozeliak said. "But I really don't want to dwell on that, because I don't love the sound of finishing second, either. I do think we went out and we tried to make robust offers that we felt were competitive, and it just didn't get it done.

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"Sometimes it's not always about what you're doing. You need the other party to want to be there, too. That's sort of the frustration of when you fail; maybe it just wasn't meant to be."

Mozeliak went on to describe Price and Heyward as "very unique opportunities" for the organization. Heyward was especially attractive to the Cardinals because of his age (26) and the opportunity to have him slide in as the next long-term piece in the outfield since Holliday is entering the last guaranteed year of his contract. In Price, the Cardinals thought they had found an elite free-agent pitcher who wanted to play in St. Louis.

In the end, dollars drove Price to Boston, and the allure of playing for the up-and-coming Cubs led Heyward to Chicago.

"It has been an odd offseason," Mozeliak said. "I don't want to say that you always get what you want, but we've been able to ... whatever our target was, we were able to get the target or at least close to it. And in this particular case, we didn't. That is unusual for us. How you adjust and how you handle that is something [where] you have to go back to your principles and what you stand for and what this organization has always been about. For us, our success has really come from our pipeline, and I think we're really going to lean on that."

The Cardinals will be relying on their pipeline to produce pitching, though that won't preclude Mozeliak from looking for additional help. The club needs to replace 40 percent of its starting innings from 2015 after losing John Lackey in free agency and Lance Lynn to injury. As it stands now, Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales line up to compete for the fifth rotation spot.

Mozeliak said he will continue to look in the reliever market as well, though no move appears imminent.

"I don't know if I could characterize us as close at this point, but at any given time, things can move quickly and you could end up doing something," Mozeliak said. "We have a lot of different things out there that we are pursuing, but in terms of closure, I don't know when."

What the Cardinals hope to achieve is the sustained success that Heyward, during his introductory news conference with the Cubs on Tuesday, suggested could be fleeting. Heyward, moments after slipping on his new jersey, said that he did not take the highest offer presented to him, but rather went with the most appealing long-term destination.

"I told myself going into this process I don't want to take the highest dollar amount when I feel like my gut is telling me to go somewhere else or choose a location based on having fun, making sure my family is safe, and knowing that I would get the most enjoyment out of it for my career," Heyward said. "But, for me, the winning attitude and culture and the fact that this group is such a young group ... I'll be able to grow up with these guys."

He later cited several aging Cardinals players -- including Holliday, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright -- in describing the uncertainty he felt would accompany a return to St. Louis.

Mozeliak, politely, took a differing perspective on Wednesday.

"My take on Jason is he didn't ask to be traded here," Mozeliak said. "Never once during his time here [did he] demand we sign him to a contract or even engage in contract negotiations. He always was very candid that, 'I'm going to get to free agency and see where things go.'

"I would like to believe -- and maybe this is just me being an eternal optimist -- but we do have talent coming. We do have some young players that we want to build around. Hopefully in the end, this organization can stand up to that. Time will tell. We're not going away."

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.