Cards said to be in market for top-tier starters

Darvish, Arrieta reportedly on club's list this offseason

Cards said to be in market for top-tier starters

With every intention of contending in 2018 and snapping a two-year postseason drought, the Cardinals are reportedly in the market for a frontline starter -- including free agents Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman. However, the Cardinals will first seek trades for starting pitchers before pursuing any moves in the free-agent market.

Darvish and Arrieta are the top starters on the market, and will likely command lucrative long-term deals, which is why president of baseball operations John Mozeliak may be tempted to fill the club's voids via trade. Such options may include the Rays' Jake Odorizzi or Chris Archer, though Tampa Bay doesn't have a high interest in dealing the latter, per Heyman. The trade market is suspected to be thin at the position this offseason.

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Free agent Alex Cobb, as well as Lance Lynn, who is expected to decline the $17.4 million qualifying offer extended by St. Louis, could be more affordable options.

Mozeliak on Sunday met with agents from the Wasserman Media Group, which represents Giancarlo Stanton, whom the Cardinals are also pursuing, though their conversations reportedly didn't surround the Majors' reigning home run leader.

Notable Free Agent: Arrieta

The Cardinals have had a close-up view of Arrieta, 31, who has pitched for the division-rival Cubs over the past four seasons, with Chicago having won the National League Central each of the past two seasons and defeating the Cards in the NL Division Series in '15, St. Louis' most recent playoff appearance. Arrieta is coming off a solid but less-than-stellar -- by his standards -- season, going 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA after a strong second half.

Darvish, 31, the blockbuster acquisition at the non-waiver Trade Deadline by the Dodgers, went 10-12 with a 3.41 ERA in '17. He is expected to be pursued by multiple clubs this offseason.

Mozeliak also has reiterated this offseason that the club's priorities are a middle-of-the-order bat and closer. Vice president and general manager Mike Girsch said at the GM Meetings on Monday that he anticipates the club adding multiple relievers this winter.

In other words, the Cardinals are open to all options at this early stage of the offseason.

"I think there's a desire to fill the needs as soon as we can, and if that happens quickly, we would be fine. But I don't think we have a desire to act quickly just to act quickly," Girsch said. "We don't have a deadline on when we have to make our first move."

Girsch touched on other matters in a media session Monday evening:

• On whether the bat the Cardinals seek is more likely on the free-agent market or via trade:

"I think we're open to adding wherever we can," Girsch said. "Practically speaking, there are probably more impact bats that you can trade for because the free-agent market is [such a small percentage] of big leaguers. We'll see how it plays out."

• On the likelihood of easing the outfield logjam:

"I think it's highly likely that we move an outfielder at some point," Girsch said. "And I'm not limiting that to our Major League outfielders. We have more outfielders than we can fit at Triple-A as well."

• On whether the team will have to free additional spots on the 40-man roster, which currently stands at 35, before next week's deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 Draft:

"I think we can protect the players we want to protect," Girsch said.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.