Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak surveyed his bench and realized that what the club needed was something even the minor-league system he believed to be robust couldn’t provide.

That was this past winter.

The same could be said this winter.

Mozeliak has tinkered for two years with the makeup of the major-league bench — bending younger (and cheaper) for 2012 and then changing courses this year by signing Ty Wigginton to a two-year $5 million deal. Wigginton was released midway through this season but by the time October arrived the bench had been depleted. Allen Craig’s injury meant Matt Adams had to start and the postseason bench was devoid of thump.

“Clearly the way our bench sets up ... it has been more defensive protection than necessarily offensive” Mozeliak said. “Part of it is just a lot of how we play our club — we sometimes value defensive flexibility over just the hitter. Maybe this offseason our strategy might be more pop. There’s a lot of things that go into that. There’s no black and white.”

Craig continues to rehab a ligament injury in his left foot that has kept him off the field for five weeks. The Cardinals do not have a timetable for his return and are less optimistic now than they were a month ago about him contributing in October.

Craig did not rule out being available for the NLCS.

“We’re going to find that out real soon” he said. He expects to meet for that discussion today.

His presence off the bench would add a power element that isn’t there now. The Cardinals’ bench — led by Shane Robinson Daniel Descalso Adron Chambers and Kolten Wong — offers more speed and defense than pinch-hit options.

Manager Mike Matheny said his starting lineup is one that doesn’t beg for pinch-hitters.

“How that translates is we really don’t have a lot of offensive options” he said. “When we have an Allen Craig we typically have a deeper bench and one of those big threats to come off the bench. That’s just not the team we have. ... We’re going to trust the guys we throw out there for the most part.”