"I'd say the most pressing matter is to see if we can address our starting pitching," general manager John Mozeliak said on Monday evening. "How we get to that could pull [Rolen] into that circle of pressing [matters], but there could be other ways to address it."
Mozeliak said that he has had discussions with other teams about potential trades for starters, and he's met with the agents for some free-agent hurlers as well.
St. Louis has six starting pitchers under contract or team control for 2008, but two of them -- Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder -- have significant health questions. Cardinals starters finished 14th in the National League in ERA in 2007.
That issue has been on Mozeliak's plate for a while, though -- since the end of the season and even further back. The Rolen issue has become more of a front-burner concern in recent weeks.
Mozeliak insists the Cardinals are not in a hurry to move Rolen, and that they will only do so in a move that makes the team better. He said he will not deal the seven-time Gold Glover simply to get rid of him. Rolen and the club have not seen eye-to-eye on a number of issues dating back to 2005.
"Right now we're still doing our exploratory search on this, but we're not bound to do anything," Mozeliak said. "Unless we feel like we're really improving our club, our intentions would be for Scott Rolen to be a part of our club in 2008."
The Brewers are known to have at least some interest in Rolen, while other reported prospective suitors include San Francisco and Texas. However, Mozeliak indicated he hadn't had any recent conversations with the Rangers, shooting down a report that a Rolen-for-Hank Blalock swap was under consideration.
Rolen's contract includes full no-trade protection, so he would have to approve any move. Mozeliak said that he has not had specific discussions with Rolen's agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, about the teams in play for the third baseman. However, Mozeliak is confident that there has been enough communication that Rolen will not be part of a trade that he would veto.
Roughly four teams have had discussions with St. Louis about Rolen, according to Mozeliak. He said that the club is not significantly closer to a deal than it was a week or two ago. The picture would likely become much clearer once the Marlins trade their star third baseman, Miguel Cabrera.
"I don't know if the market's really defined itself either yet that way" Mozeliak said. "I do think there is something of a paralysis on another third baseman. And when you look at what the right strategy for us is, I think time is somewhat of a benefit for us.
"It's hard for me to guess what that side of things are doing, but I suspect that some teams that are probably trying to do something in that direction might end up looking our way if something doesn't happen."
If Rolen is moved, the Cardinals would obviously need to move towards procuring a replacement at the hot corner. But Mozeliak said that such considerations are secondary at this point. Media reports have connected the Cardinals with free agent third baseman Pedro Feliz.
"Not very," Mozeliak said when asked about progress on a potential third-base replacement, "because we're not that far with moving Scott. Obviously I have to explore what's out there, regardless. But with that said, there hasn't been really any dialogue of substance."
Other Cardinals notes from Day 1 of the Winter Meetings:
Mozeliak identified center fielder Colby Rasmus, likely bound for Triple-A Memphis, as the closest thing to an untouchable in the Cardinals system.
"In the right deal we'd probably consider anything," he said, "but right now I'd say Rasmus would be on a list that it doesn't make any sense for us to part with at this time."
Mulder, who underwent shoulder surgery in the fall, has an expected return date of late April to early May at this point.
Blaise Ilsley is expected to become the new pitching coach at Triple-A Memphis.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.