LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. • As the Cardinals continue to pursue several options for the middle-order bat they covet, the team has told Matt Carpenter that he should be prepared to play multiple positions in 2018 and not be tethered to one role or one base.
"I think we have to be a little more open-minded on how we think about (Carpenter's position)," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals' president of baseball operations. "A lot is going to depend on how things evolve this offseason."
The Cardinals, as you may have heard, are shopping for a bat.
Mozeliak even referred to their target as a "middle-order bat," and on Tuesday he listed that alongside the wish for two relievers as the Cardinals' top priorities. As has been reported numerous times around these pixels, the Cardinals do not expect to aim for the top shelf when it comes to starting pitching, but they have said they will look later this winter at the starters market after it settles and perhaps some of the free agents don't find their desired contracts.
The Cardinals' search for a middle-order bat has looked at trade options, where the better bats are at this point. That has taken them to Miami and talks with the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, for sure, and presumably also for Marcell Ozuna.
The Cardinals have kept tabs on what Toronto wants to do with third baseman Josh Donaldson, and the Cardinals have been in contact with the agents for the free-agent first basemen who are available. A source described Eric Hosmer as "a good fit for the Cardinals," and that fit has been explored by the team.
The addition of a third baseman would give Carpenter more chances to start on the right side of the infield. The acquisition of a first baseman would give Carpenter more looks from third base.
With all of that in mind, the Cardinals suggested that Carpenter spend the offseason prepping to play all over, from third to second, first to even perhaps some corner outfield.
This comes a year after the Cardinals made a commitment to Carpenter at first base so that the former All-Star could practice the new position.
Manager Mike Matheny reached out to Carpenter in the past few weeks to talk about the super-utility nature of his position for 2018. Matheny, attending the GM Meetings as part of the competition committee, said giving Carpenter that heads-up early in the offseason gives him a chance to work on the agility and the athleticism that Carpenter had told the team was going to be something he could improve with his health.
Carpenter was limited by a sore oblique muscle, damage in his right shoulder, and other ailments during the season. He felt he lost some of his agility in the field and on the bases as a result.
"You have to understand when your club is looking for an improvement," Matheny said, "you never know where that improvement is going to come."
Carpenter has been an everyday starter at third, second, and this past season at first base. He was an All-Star at the first two positions, and this past year, despite the shoulder injury, he moved back to third base to accommodate Jose Martinez when the rookie had a second-half surge offensively and manned first base.