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Goold: No obvious left-handed hitting answer for Cardinals on free-agent market

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Check out the highlights from Derrick Goold’s Cardinals chat with readers. The full transcript of the chat can be found here.

Q: Just adding an upgrade at catcher and adding a big bat would make this team very good, depending on injuries.

A: This is the working approach for the front office as they reach the GM Meetings. Was asked last night if the Cardinals had some priorities, and those were two of that I listed. They want to add a catcher, a stable presence there who can be the everyday starter if called upon, and handle the pitching staff. They want to add a significant bat to the mix, knowing that Pujols' power is leaving and the need for a left-handed presence would be beneficial. They have described those as two different additions -- catcher and bat, not catcher-bat.

The third shopping list I would add is their interest in going for a strikeout-heavy reliever. Seriously, like a reliever who just misses bats. That doesn't mean a closer, and it may be a pitcher who has other peripherals that may not look all that great, but he misses bats and they'll feel they can improve the other elements. They'll look for that reliever.

Q: Which LH bat would you go after to be that 3rd big bat in the lineup? Unless Carlson and Edman can learn to hit way better from the left side and Nootbaar gets more consistent won't the team still struggle vs RHP?

A: This is a great question, and it's not one that has a great obvious answer. It doesn't. As of right now there really isn't that left-handed hitting obvious answer on the free-agent market. There is one compelling option, and it would be fascinating with all this talk of Willson Contreras if the former the Cubs the Cardinals actually have a long conversation about and with is ... Anthony Rizzo.

I am eager in the coming days to see what the future holds for Cody Bellinger.

Like I said, the left-handed hitting option that would really outfit the Cardinals lineup with a different look is not there, not obvious. So, maybe it takes a less obvious, more risky/unexpected move.

Q: Hi Derrick, what do you think will happen at SS? I think the team would be better with Edmonds at 2nd and someone else not taking terrible at bats at short.

A: Up in the air at the moment. The Cardinals are currently calling Tommy Edman their incumbent and their starter at shortstop. Paul DeJong is entering the final year of his contract. That said, they acknowledge that they do have the option of opening up any position in the middle of the field for an alternative/upgrade. That includes SS, 2B, and CF, and of course we all know and have discussed the opening at shortstop. They see Edman as a moveable piece, a defensive dynamo (which he earned this year and should be lauded for doing so because of how well he did at shortstop when there were questions), and valuable because he can move around to make room for a bat.

Q: Jordan Walker is coming, but does he need to experience Triple A pitching first? Or could he join the team north? Is he one of those players who might be held back in order for the team to have another year of control?

A: Well, let it be know that on Nov. 7, 2022, we got the first question of service time manipulation with the Cardinals. There has been only one real obvious use of service time manipulation by the Cardinals and it turned out not to matter at all because of a demotion later in Dylan Carlson's career. The Cardinals have, according to agents and observers and just my time watching the team through the years, not really massaged service time in the same way other teams have famously done. Andre Pallante was on the opening day roster. Michael Wacha was a free agent a year earlier than the Cardinals could have engineered, but they didn't. Tommy Edman and John Jay came just shy of Super-2 status, but there was no way for the Cardinals to precisely estimate that when it's based on the actions of other teams and promotions they make through the course of the season.

Still, there was Dylan Carlson.

Of course, that was also a different CBA.

Now there are elements of the new CBA in place specifically to encourage teams to promote top prospects. Julio Rodriguez and Jeremy Pena both are examples of this. Their teams -- both capable of service time manipulation and certainly eager to do so when it comes to those two players -- had incentive not to, and they spent the full seasons with their club. One will win the Rookie of the Year award, and the other was the ALCS and World Series MVP.

Walker would fall into that group. If he wins a job in spring, he's in the opening day lineup, and no a turn in Triple-A would not be necessary. Albert Pujols went straight from the Arizona Fall League to a strong spring training to never going back to the minors again. And, yes, they could have manipulated his service time, too, and delayed his free agency...

Q: It seemed like going into spring training last year, the idea was to use the DH as a rotating spot based on rest and matchups. Then Pujols happened. What direction do you see the team going in 2023? Do you think we'll see a guy like Yepez get 90 starts at DH?

A: Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman are currently set to be the options/complements at DH. But DH is definitely in play for the upgrade at bat that the Cardinals want to find to protect Goldschmidt/Arenado. That's how they open up the possibilities.

Q: Last year, because of the CBA expiration, we saw a FA flurry like we see in other sports. There's no CBA expiration this year, but what do you expect this winter? Hot stove? Mild stove? Cold stove until spring training looms?

A: A long winter of wild, rampant, unchecked speculation to fill the idle time that will inevitable return to the signings. We'll see moves in bursts. But there are no deadlines. So some things will just trickle all the way to spring training.

Q: DG, do you think the increase in the size of the base will have a major impact on the game and increase movement on the bases? Will we ever see a team steal 150+ in a season again?

A: I doubt we'll see a 150 steal season again, honestly. But the hope is that the bigger paces change the numbers just enough for the mid-speed hitter to force the other team to adjust. They have to change the calculus of teams when it comes to what they're willing to risk when it comes to steals. That does mean making it more likely to happen, even by a whisper. And it's not just steals. It's pushing for second base. It's going first to third. Those risk numbers need to change too so more teams are willing to go, go, go, and I'm hopeful the bigger bases will do that.

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the Cardinals new pitching coach and the World Series. Also, a happy birthday shoutout to former Cards reliever Mitch Harris! And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

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