Cardinals not ruling out more free-agent signings in pursuit of Cubs

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The Cardinals plucked All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna away from the Marlins last month as part of a payroll-inspired trade for four prospects. |
Brett Davis/AP

ST. LOUIS — John Mozeliak did his best to keep any emotional reaction to last season’s disappointment at bay.

That was no easy task at times for the president of the St. Louis Cardinals, particularly following a season in which one of the National League’s premier franchises missed the playoffs for a second straight year — the first time they’ve been absent in back-to-back years since 2007-08.

“I’d like to think we maintained our logic,” Mozeliak said Saturday. “There’s no doubt that ownership on down stated we had to do something.”

The Cardinals made several additions in the offseason to a club that finished 83-79, third in the Central behind their rival Chicago Cubs and the upstart Milwaukee Brewers. Most notably, they plucked All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna away from the Miami Marlins last month as part of a payroll-inspired trade for four prospects.

St. Louis also added experience to its pitching staff with the signings of right-hander Miles Mikolas and reliever Luke Gregerson, but the question many Cardinals fans have is whether the additions are enough to chase down a Cubs team that’s reached the NL Championship Series in three straight years.

Making the question all the more relevant is the hole in St. Louis’ starting rotation with Lance Lynn still a free agent. Also, there’s the current glut of top free agents still in the market for jobs, including starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, whose signing could potentially swing the balance in the Central.

Mozeliak said he believes the Cardinals have already improved their roster from last season, both because of the Ozuna signing and because of the return of a healthy Alex Reyes to the pitching staff. That said, if Reyes’ elbow injury during spring training a year ago showed Mozeliak anything, it’s that the best-laid plans don’t always pan out.

That’s why he won’t rule out the possibility of any more signings — if the price is right.

“The approach has always been for us is, if there is something we can do to continue to improve, we’re going to look at that or explore that,” Mozeliak said.

Where Mozeliak is hesitant when it comes to the possibility of making more moves is the idea of giving up more prospects via trade for players who St. Louis would control for fewer years. He’s also not about to consider the idea of a complete rebuild for a franchise that’s had one losing season since the turn of the century.

“When you talk about other teams that break up their club or take a timeout, that’s not something we’ve even had an internal debate over,” Mozeliak said. “I can honestly tell you that it’s always about how we keep our foot on the gas, how can we improve.”

Whether or not the Cardinals make any more significant additions to their roster before the season starts, Mozeliak is confident in what they already have.

He’s also not about to cede anything to the Cubs or anyone else, for that matter.

“Our expectations are to win,” Mozeliak said. “… When you really take a step back and look at the moves we made, this was about competing now.”

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