Cards' 3 questions to answer this offseason

Cards' 3 questions to answer this offseason

ST. LOUIS -- After a month spent rebuilding the coaching staff and preparing for the offseason ahead, the Cardinals are now ready to begin actively pursuing the player upgrades they feel are needed to return to the postseason in 2018.

With Hot Stove season now simmering, let's take a look at some of the key decisions ahead for an organization coming off an 83-win year:

Free agents: Lefty Zach Duke and righties Lance Lynn, Juan Nicasio and Seung Hwan Oh.

Arbitration-eligible players: Righties Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha, outfielder Randal Grichuk and lefty Tyler Lyons.

Where will the Cardinals find their needed impact bat?
It's never a simple task to go out and add a middle-of-the-order hitter, but that's where the Cardinals will start this offseason. The free-agent market doesn't offer many ideal fits, which makes it likelier that the organization pursues options via trade.

Reports have the Cardinals tied to the market for Giancarlo Stanton, though the Marlins have other outfielders that could also appeal to St. Louis. Keep in mind that the preference for president of baseball operations John Mozeliak is to find a long-term impact bat, so the Cardinals will be particularly interested in cost-controllable assets. They have pitching and outfield depth to deal from if they go the trade route.

Oh nets save in close game

How will the club retool its bullpen?
With no returning closer and questions about who will bridge the gap to the ninth inning, the Cardinals will spend the next few months reconfiguring their bullpen. Oh is about to enter free agency, and St. Louis is working under the assumption that Rosenthal will miss most of the upcoming season -- if he's back at all.

The club has expressed interested in resigning Nicasio, who could be an option to close. General manager Michael Girsch said the organization will also explore the cost of experienced closers on the free-agent market. Most likely, the Cardinals will sign multiple bullpen arms and possibly even enter Spring Training with the closer's job up for grabs.

Piscotty's game-tying single

What will the Cardinals do with all their outfield depth?
Consider this a good conundrum, as the Cardinals have too many Major League-ready outfielders to fit them all into the plans for 2018. But that also puts the club at a crossroads in which it must determine who is best to keep.

It's unlikely that Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty both return, so look for the Cardinals to entertain including one in a trade. Young outfielders Harrison Bader, Magneuris Sierra, Jose Adolis Garcia and Tyler O'Neill could draw interest from other teams, too. The outfield picture could be further muddied if the Cardinals add an outfielder as their impact bat. In that case, it's almost assured that the organization would trade multiple outfielders to make room.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.