This year's free-agent market offers no bigger prize than outfielder Matt Holliday, and the Cards still very much hope to retain Holliday's services. When baseball's annual Winter Meetings convene on Monday morning in downtown Indianapolis, Holliday will be the main man in the Redbirds' sights.
In past years, the Cards have kept their stated aims a little less specific. Last year they wanted to add a closer, for example, and it only came out over time that Brian Fuentes was the primary target. This time around, it's no secret.
The Meetings won't necessarily be a success or failure based solely on whether Holliday re-signs before everyone heads home. For one thing, a deal may not be done with any team by the time the event wraps up on Dec. 10. But any other aims certainly rank second at best for St. Louis.
"I think a lot will be determined on where we are with potentially signing back Holliday," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But in terms of having a goal in mind, there's nothing [else] I think that is paramount from those four or five days."
There are other moves the Cardinals would like to make, and Indianapolis will provide the opportunity to get that business done.
Priority No. 2 must be the starting rotation, where two spots are in question. St. Louis is likely to look in-house for one starter, but that still leaves one spot to fill via free agency or trade. John Smoltz remains a possibility, but the Cardinals could look elsewhere as well.
And if Holliday walks, the Cards may also look to add a third baseman. David Freese is the favorite to hold that position, but that equation changes if Holliday is not a Cardinal. The offense has to get some help, and if it's not in the form of Holliday, it may come at third base.
But it all comes back to the main man, the player that the Cardinals gave up three promising prospects to acquire.
Mozeliak said the team has been in contact with Holliday's agent, Scott Boras. So he doesn't necessarily expect any acceleration of the negotiating process once he sits down again face-to-face with Boras.
"We've talked, and we know where things are in terms of that," Mozeliak said. "So I don't necessarily think we're going to benefit from it. But it might help their camp benefit."
What could happen, however, is a crystallization of the market for Holliday. With all 30 clubs in one place, Boras and his lieutenants will likely move much further down the negotiation road, getting more hard numbers from clubs. That would, if nothing else, give the Cardinals a much better idea of what exactly they're getting into.
"I don't think it will hurt," Mozeliak said. "With Matt, if the situation could have developed sooner, we would have been interested. But it was something where they wanted to take the time with the market. I suspect by the time you get deep into Winter Meetings, they should have a pretty good idea what it looks like."