In one of the hotel suites nestled off the labyrinthine hallways of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak settled into a chair last December and had no trouble seeing straight to the future.
“We could be sitting here next year having a similar conversation,” he said to a small clutch of reporters, “about finding a shortstop.”

Next year has arrived.

The conversation remains.

A shortstop search the Cardinals saw coming and started preparing for more than 12 months ago has gained volume with the opening of this year’s winter marketplace. Teams could begin making offers to free agents last week, and trade winds are certain to gust when general managers gather in Orlando, Fla., starting Monday for their annual meetings. A Cardinals official once described the team’s shortstop interests last winter and this summer as “gathering intelligence.” The Cardinals see this winter as the time to put the talk to use and introduce something else to the conversation — an answer.

“As we look at how to improve our club, we do see shortstop, from an offensive standpoint, as a good place to start,” Mozeliak said Friday. “It’s not the end-all to get to where we need to go. There are other ways we can find, other directions, if necessary. But as we look at places to begin, there is shortstop.”

Mozeliak and his staff spent the past week — their first without a game of some type since last February – contacting agents and teams. He called the calls “exploratory.” Mozeliak said the opening weeks of the open market “give you a feel for what the future may look like.” He called the GM meetings this week a chance to followup on conversations with other teams and agents.