What will it take to shake life into the Cardinals’ offseason?

Sports

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina throws Adam Wainwright a rosin bag after the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Milwaukee. Wainwright pitched a complete game as the Cardinals won 4-2. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

ST. LOUIS, Mo- In his last group interview session with reporters, John Mozeliak said in early December that “January would be the new December” in terms of when we’ll see player transactions start flowing.

As we enter the second week of January, it’s still been pretty quiet in Cardinal Nation. Normally, the upcoming Winter Warm-Up might offer a nice public relations perch from which to show off a new acquisition. But thanks to concerns over COVID-19, that event will be a virtual one, so that wouldn’t appear to be a motivator for action.

The flood of non-tendered players onto the free agent market was supposed to go a long way toward establishing player values all around, prompting action, but still really hasn’t.

Cardinals pitcher Andrew Miller, a member of the Players Association Executive Board, told our partners at the Post-Dispatch this week he’s operating on the idea that spring training will still start February 17 and the season will start April 1. But that’s not a given.

What’s left that could really, really, maybe, hopefully push things along for the Cardinals, when it comes to upgrading the offense, and getting clarity on the future of franchise cornerstones Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina? We’ll give you three factors.

THE DESIGNATED HITTER: Will it be back in 2021 or not? Teams are keeping their powder dry until they know the rules. Potential options, like Nelson Cruz, most recently with the Minnesota Twins, are also watching and waiting. For St. Louis, the DH would open up a lineup spot to add some power, give the Cardinals a way to rotate through a crowded cast of outfielders, or get Matt Carpenter a day off on defense. A DH decision could also factor into determining Yadier Molina’s future. Teams like the Padres and Braves would be well-positioned to move incumbent catchers to some DH duty and then look to bring in someone like Molina.

ROSTER SIZES: Major League Baseball played with expanded rosters in 2020, 28 players, and then a taxi squad. What will the makeup look like in 2021? With no minor league season last year, teams had only their satellite camps available when it came to developing players. After a season where pitchers only threw a fraction of the innings they would normally, teams will want protection for their staffs, especially if rosters are expanded even by just a player or two. That means veteran pitching. That means a guy like Adam Wainwright would figure to be in demand.

JT REALMUTO: The more likely domino, in determining Molina’s path, will be what happens to free agent catcher JT Realmuto, seen as one of the jewels of this entire free agent class. Will he re-sign with Philadelphia? If not, new Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski, a win-now executive if there ever was one, would surprise no one if he turned to Molina and was willing to go the two years Molina is believed to want. Other teams in the Realmuto market would appear to be Washington, Houston and Toronto.

One subject that will not be a factor is the issue of a vaccine. John Mozeliak has already said he doesn’t expect the availability of vaccines to factor into a repaired financial bottom line for clubs in 2021.

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