Cardinals hope to land catcher at winter meetings. Shortstop on the wish list, too?

Second verse, same as the first. Or, if you prefer, the shopping will continue until the catchers improve.

The St. Louis Cardinals are in need of someone to carry the bulk of the innings load behind home plate in 2023. Brother, can you spare a backstop?

“Our hope is to try to land a catcher while we’re out here,” said Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak from the team’s working suite on Monday night, the endless depths of the Pacific Ocean visible from a wall of windows.

The catching market, however, is not so deep, and once it moves, will likely do so with more speed than the incoming tide. Reports late Sunday that Oakland’s Sean Murphy would soon be on the move — a top target of the Cardinals — implied the pace of the market was swift, and Mozeliak did little to discourage that impression.

“We’re not running from that,” he said when asked if the rest of the club’s offseason plans hinge on their search for a catcher. “For two decades, we haven’t had to be in this market, and here we are.”

“Look, it’s an opportunity, right? Like anything, things come to an end. (Yadier Molina)’s career was amazing. I think he’s going to be a first ballot hall of famer. But when you look at where we are today, we know we need to go out and fill that.”

One position that is filled at present is shortstop, even with reports surfacing early Monday the club was lurking in the weeds around Dansby Swanson, entering the market for the first time after a career-best season for Atlanta.

“I think I’ve been on record with this, but I’ll repeat that right now, Tommy Edman’s our shortstop,” Mozeliak said. “We feel like we have second base options with Donovan and Gorman, and we’re excited about what we’re seeing in Masyn Winn.”

Mozeliak also expressed confidence Paul DeJong’s winter work with the club’s hitting staff at their complex in Jupiter would pay dividends, but also that, “it’s interesting the interest (other teams) have in him ... we’re not ready just to cut bait on that one.”

Still, the middle infield mix could well change in the coming days as trades approach consummation. The Athletics are widely expected to seek controllable power hitting prospects in exchange for Murphy, for instance; Gorman fits that description squarely.

‘It’s a little bit risky’

If the players on the roster were to change, so too would the team’s need. And if the market evolves in such a way that a shortstop enters a price point with which they would be comfortable while also supplementing their offense, an opportunity to strike would be presented.

“It’s a little bit risky when you’re trading for or signing someone coming off their best season,” Mozeliak conceded, not speaking specifically about Swanson. “I think the strength of our analytics is that we understand that you account for everything you’ve done. So we’re not just looking at just your most recent sample as who you are.”

“If we end up trading something from this club, then, you know, then that might be something that we have to go chase somewhere else,” he added, again not speaking specifically about catchers or shortstops.

Still, it’s hard not to draw the connection, especially with relatively little certainty available among free agent outfielders and with so much attention drawn to the boost a shortstop can provide. Trea Turner’s 11-year, $300 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies acted to set the market Monday morning, and Carlos Correa’s total guarantee may well exceed that number.

That water is far too deep for the Cardinals’ collective will to dive in.

Pitching options

From there, the club will likely turn to pitching depth. Mozeliak pushed back on the suggestion that any of their three starters (Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Jordan Montgomery) with one year of team control remaining would be trade pieces, pointing out such limited contractual obligation tends to limit trade values.

Instead, adding to their stock of available arms in preparation for some inevitable degree of churn could fill out the time remaining in the winter. Those moves are likely to be the sort which occur over the span of the calendar rather than a span of hours.

The latter, perhaps, is the distance between the Cardinals and their new catcher. Staffers from throughout the organization gathered Monday for a celebratory dinner, and Mozeliak dryly gave reporters permission to seek their own sustenance as Monday’s meeting broke up.

‘The reality is, people know that we have a spot open’

Following that, though, the bidding is set to resume apace.

“I suppose maybe we shouldn’t have said what we’re looking for,” Mozeliak mused when asked about current asking costs. “But the reality is, people know that we have a spot open. I don’t feel like it’s being leveraged against us. It’s really leveraged against the market.”

The Cardinals, at present, sit at that fulcrum of that leverage.

St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak speaks as St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (5) and Yadier Molina (4) are honored during a ceremony before the start of the final regular season game Oct. 2. Both players are officially retired and Mozeliak and the organization are looking for Molina’s replacement at the current winter meetings.
St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak speaks as St. Louis Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (5) and Yadier Molina (4) are honored during a ceremony before the start of the final regular season game Oct. 2. Both players are officially retired and Mozeliak and the organization are looking for Molina’s replacement at the current winter meetings.