Trading for Reds first baseman Joey Votto would provide a dramatic upgrade to the Cardinals offense in 2017 and beyond. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals made their first move toward becoming a better team in 2017 with the announcement that they did not intend to pick up the $17 million option on Matt Holliday’s contract.

So, what’s next on the to-do list for general manager John Mozeliak?

It’s a long list, but here are 10 suggestions about moves the Cardinals could, and should, make this winter that would re-shape the team not only for next year but for years to come:

1. Say goodbye to Garcia.

Without making any additional moves, there would appear to be at least seven pitchers who rank ahead of Jaime Garcia for the five spots in next year’s rotation – Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes, Lance Lynn, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Luke Weaver and Michael Wacha. That list also doesn’t include Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons or Tim Cooney – if the team is desperate to include a left-hander as one of the five starters.

Garcia is due $12 million in 2017 if the Cardinals pick up his option, but his struggles down the stretch, his injury-filled past and the fact he does not seem to have a spot in the rotation all work against him coming back. There have been some suggestions, mostly in the media, that the Cardinals should pick up the option and then trade Garcia, but that would be risky. A clean break is needed. There are better ways for the Cardinals to spend that $11.5 million, after paying Garcia a $500,000 buyout.

2. Make a blockbuster trade with the Cincinnati Reds.

Now Mozeliak is ready to start spending that extra money he saved by declining the Holliday and Garcia options, which equals about $27 million. The Cardinals need a middle of the order bat who can get on base consistently and drive in runs without always having to hit a home run. Joey Votto could be that player.

Yes Votto is owed a lot of money, $22 million next year and $25 million for the following six years, plus an option for 2024, a total of $179 million. The Cardinals can afford it. Taking on Votto’s salary for next year, after subtracting Holliday and Garcia’s contracts, actually saves the team $5 million, and the team has only $60 million in contract commitments for 2018 and $47 million for 2019. And Votto, a four-time All-Star and former MVP, could be one part of the solution about how to fix the lineup.

Votto, who will play next season at 33, hit .326 last year and had an on-base percentage of .434, higher than any regular on the Cardinals. He hit 29 homers and drove in 97 runs but more than half of those RBIs – 49 – came in ways other than by hitting a home run. Sticking him in the third spot in the Cardinals’ order, in front of Stephen Piscotty, would be a good start to creating a more-formidable St. Louis lineup.

Votto does have a full no-trade clause in his contract, but there would seem to be no reason why he would turn down a deal to the Cardinals.

That is not all of the proposed deal, however. The Reds are desperate to get out from under Votto’s contract, so the Cardinals should use that leverage to their benefit – telling the Reds they will take on all of Votto’s contract, but only if the Reds include center fielder Billy Hamilton in the deal.

Not only would Hamilton be a major defensive upgrade, he would change the look of the lineup in the leadoff spot, freeing Matt Carpenter to move down in the order to more of an RBI role. Randal Grichuk could move to left field, another defensive upgrade. Suddenly the plodding Cardinals would have a dynamic threat on the bases, something they have lacked for years.

What would it take to get Votto and Hamilton? If the Cardinals assume all of Votto’s contract, it likely would take a smaller package to complete the deal. Matt Adams almost certainly would have to be included, and a couple of other near-ready prospects and maybe another farther down in the minors. If the Reds won’t put Hamilton in the deal, the cost for the Cardinals in terms of prospects would also have to be reduced.

But just envision how this lineup would look in 2017: Hamilton, Aledmys Diaz, Votto, Piscotty, Carpenter, Grichuk, Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong and the pitcher. If the Cardinals truly want to close the gap on the Cubs, this is the kind of move they need to make.

3. Sell high on Gyorko.

Under this scenario, Jedd Gyorko could be expendable – at a time when his trade value might never be higher thanks to his career-high 30 homers. Whatever prospects have to be included to make the deal with the Reds could be replaced by trading Gyorko. His versatility of playing everywhere on the infield, and his power, would make him attractive to a lot of clubs – as would the fact the Padres are still paying much of his salary for the next couple of years.

4. Find a centerfielder.

If the Cardinals could get the Reds to include Hamilton in the Votto trade, this need is solved. If not, there are other players the Cardinals could target – including free agents Dexter Fowler of the Cubs and Ian Desmond of the Rangers. It’s not likely, however, that Mozeliak would want to surrender next year’s first-round draft pick to sign a free agent who has received a qualifying offer. The Cardinals are guaranteed to have no lower than the 19th pick in the draft, and could move up depending on free agent signings. It likely will be their highest pick since they had the 13th overall choice in 2008.

If finding a center fielder through free agency doesn’t work, the Cardinals could explore other trade options. There have been rumblings the Pirates might shop Andrew McCutchen this winter, and he would be a wonderful fit for the Cardinals, depending of course on what they would have to send to Pittsburgh. Another player who might interest the Cardinals is Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier, the Platinum Glove winner in the AL last year, but it might take more to get him than the Cardinals are willing to spend.

Other potential discussions could include Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon or the White Sox’s Adam Eaton.

5. Make qualifying offer to Moss, but hope he says no.

This seemed to be a no-brainer move in August, but the unknown factor now is how badly Brandon Moss’s September swoon will hurt his free agent value. Some clubs desperate for offense, especially in the AL, may be willing to overlook it and still offer Moss a two or three-year deal. If Moss and his agents think that is likely, they would probably reject the qualifying offer, which would give the Cardinals another top draft pick if he does sign with another team.

If the Cardinals make the qualifying offer, however – which will be more than $16 million -- and Moss says yes, that could be OK too. In that case it probably would just make sense for the Cardinals to keep Grichuk in center for a year, play Moss in left, and then wait for prospect Harrison Bader to be ready later in the year, at which time Moss could be traded.

6. Shake up the coaching staff.

Of all the things that happened to the Cardinals this season, one change they had not counted on was Jose Oquendo not being able to coach third base. The move created domino moves on the coaching staff, with Chris Maloney moving to third base and Bill Mueller assuming the first base duties.

The Cardinals expect Oquendo to stay in Florida and work with young minor leaguers, something he already has started doing in the instructional league. They have time to figure out how they want to align their staff. It would not be a surprise if Maloney is given a new assignment and another coach is assigned to third base, likely someone already on the staff or working now in the minor leagues.

7. Trade Peralta.

Even without making any of the major moves suggested, there would seem to be little room for Peralta on next year’s roster. He will be in the final year of the four-year deal he signed with the Cardinals, and his salary drops to $10 million, both of which could make him attractive to other teams.

Peralta was affected all year by the thumb injury he suffered in spring training but a full off-season of rest and rehab should make him 100 percent by next season. Molina had a similar injury last year, and had one of the best seasons of his career this year. The Cardinals probably would not ask for a lot in exchange for Peralta, and probably would be happy just to move the contract and free up the roster spot.

8. Float Rosenthal as trade bait.

This might be interesting. Obviously Trevor Rosenthal did not have a good year, but he pitched much better when he returned from the DL in September. The Cardinals were more than happy with how Seung Hwan Oh pitched as the closer in the second half of this season, however, and he will make only about half of what the arbitration-bound Rosenthal will earn next season. It’s doubtful the Cardinals would want to pay more than $5 million to a seventh or eighth-inning pitcher.

Rosenthal still has interest in becoming a starter, so that could be another possibility, either for the Cardinals or another team. Tampa Bay has made no secret it wants to upgrade its bullpen, and they have discussed trading area native Jake Odorizzi in the past. There might even be a way to include Kiermaier as part of a deal if the Cardinals are still looking for a centerfielder.

9. Explore trade market for quality starting pitcher.

Even though it appears the Cardinals have enough depth to fill out the rotation, quality is always more important than quantity. The free agent market this year is devoid of pitchers who are better than the ones the Cardinals already have, which means they would have to make a trade if they are going to find that rotation upgrade.

Mozeliak will do his due diligence on pitchers such as Chris Sale of the White Sox, at least finding out what Chicago would want in return. The price will be high, and whether or not the Cardinals can pull off such a deal probably depends on what other moves they are able to make.

10. Decide who is worth keeping in bullpen beyond Oh and Siegrist.

Part of this answer will be determined by what happens to the rotation. If Weaver is not one of the five starters, he could wind up as a setup man with Matt Bowman, who was a pleasant surprise as a Rule 5 pick this season. Some scouts believe Weaver is better suited long-term to be a reliever anyway, but the Cardinals might want to keep him starting at Memphis to have him ready as a fill-in if that need should arise.

Zach Duke did a good job after being acquired from the White Sox and figures to be the second left-hander behind Siegrist. Jonathan Broxton has another year left on his contract, which means he likely will be back, and Mitch Harris could return after missing this season because of an elbow injury.

If the Cardinals go with an all right-handed rotation, it could make sense to have a third lefthander in the bullpen, and Lyons would be an ideal candidate if he is healthy.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains