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Welcome to Brian Walton's St. Louis Cardinals blog!

News and commentary about the past, present and future state of the St. Louis Cardinals. 
 
Note that all new St. Louis Cardinals-related content will be posted on the new Birdhouse site, stlcardinals.scout.com, rather than here.  An explanatory note is below. 
 
Search the archives, listed by week and month, at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Taguchi Non-Tendered, Lincoln Back

 

In Cardinals non-tender deadline actions, the team came to terms with injured right-handed relief pitcher Mike Lincoln on a 2005 contract for $360,000 with another $160,000 in incentives.  He is not expected to be ready until the season is underway following mid-season surgery in 2004.  Lincoln made $1 million last season.

 

Coming off the final year of his original three-year deal when he made $1.2 million, outfielder So Taguchi was wisely non-tendered by the Cardinals.  It is assumed they want the 35-year-old to return for a more reasonable amount than $960,000, which is 80% of his last year’s salary. 

 

Mulder Must-Read Stories

 

The following article by the AP quotes Mark Mulder about his health, the situation in Oakland and the trade.  It is worth a read.  http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylc=X3oDMTBpcDBuM2RlBF9TAzk1ODYxNzc3BHNlYwN0aA--?slug=ap-cardinals-mulder&prov=ap&type=lgns

 

Reader Shawn Puckett passes on this one from ESPN’s Bob Klapisch, who noted “how critically flawed his mechanics became”, leading to Mulder’s trade.  Injury as a factor was denied by A’s GM Billy Beane.   http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=klapisch_bob&id=1950110

 

8:20 am est

Monday, December 20, 2004

aka interesting non-tenders

Last Minute Christmas Shopping List

 

Here are six very interesting players non-tendered by their current teams.  In most every case, we have an injury-plagued player whose team would not consider paying them even 80% of their prior salary.  Here’s hoping Walt Jocketty looks into every one of them.

 

Player - Position – Problem – 2004 Salary

 

Wade Miller – starting pitcher – Houston - $3,400,000

The 28-year-old Miller was plagued by shoulder problems in 2004, but averaged 15 wins over the three prior seasons.  Miller has a career ERA of 3.87 and sports a 58-39 career record.  Miller was quoted that he still hopes to return to the Astros.  Take a chance, Walt.  Make some calls.  Show Miller some respect!

 

Mark DeRosa – infielder – Atlanta - $725,000

DeRosa had a horrific 2004 after beginning the season at the Braves’ starting third baseman. It mercifully ended with a torn ACL which put his readiness for the start of the 2005 regular season in jeopardy.  However, DeRosa can play third, short and second and yes, even the outfield in a pinch.  His career average/on-base percentage is .266/.318.  His high in RBI was 31 this past season.  He’ll be 30 in February.

 

Alex Cora – second base – Los Angeles - $1,300,000

Cora hit .264 with a nice on base percentage of .364 and is known as a very good defender.  He had career highs of ten homers and 47 RBI last season, but stole only three bases.  Cora was typically stationed at the bottom of the Dodgers’ order.  The signing of Jeff Kent made Cora expendable, but I am surprised the Dodgers didn’t try to trade him.  If I were Walt, I’d definitely look into Cora. 

 

Orber Moreno - relief pitcher – Mets - $320,000

Before he hurt his shoulder, Moreno was one of the top right-handed relief prospects in baseball.  He limited hitters to a .231 average last season and fanned 29 in 34-2/3 innings.  The 27-year-old has less than one season of MLB experience.  Definitely worth a flyer.

 

Matt Perisho – relief pitcher – Florida - $300,000

Perisho could fill the role of second lefty in the pen if Rick Ankiel starts.  The 29-year-old limited lefties to a .207 batting average last season and made the minimum salary.  What’s the risk?

 

Dustan Mohr – outfield – San Francisco - $340,000

The 28-year-old Mohr hit .274 with an on-base percentage of .394 in part-time duty for the Giants last season.  I’d try to get him as a steady fourth outfielder for the Cardinals.  Given the advancing age of the outfield starters, 37, 34 and 38, Mohr would be assured of plenty of playing time in St. Louis.

 

Other players of note who re-signed with current teams.

 

Second baseman D’Angelo Jimenez is staying with the Reds, agreeing to a $2.87 million deal for 2005.  Shortstop Jose’ Valentin moved from the White Sox to the Dodgers for $3.5 million. 

 

My ideal:

I’d trade for Jerry Hairston to play second and sign Cora or David Eckstein to play short.  Grabbing Mohr would help the bench.  Getting Miller is a long shot, but I’d try.  More relievers are always needed, so grabbing Perisho and Moreno would also be a secondary priority.

 

11:05 pm est

Cabrera gone, Eckstein available

Another $8 Million Shortstop

 

Anaheim Angels owner Arte Moreno again opened up his wide pocket book, picking up another Hispanic player, free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera.  Cabrera was awarded a four-year, $32 million deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News.

 

Cabrera, deemed to be too expensive for the Cardinals, replaces David Eckstein.  Eckstein was called a favorite of Angels manager Mike Scioscia, starting at shortstop the last three seasons for them.  However, Eckstein’s .339 on-base percentage and .332 slugging percentage were dead last among American League starting shortstops last season, reported Rosenthal.

 

Eckstein, who turns 30 next month, is expected to be non-tendered as a result of this trade and as a result is already being linked to the Cardinals.  He made $2,150,000 last season.

10:40 pm est

$10 M Hardees and Burger King lefty tandem split permanent

Kline an Oriole

 

On Monday, free agent left-handed reliever Steve Kline agreed to a two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles.  His $5.5 million deal compares to the $4.6 million Ray King got from the Cardinals.
 

Walton’s take:  So ends the final breakup of arguably the best left-handed relief pair the Cardinals ever had.  After four seasons with St. Louis, Kline’s departure was sealed because of some combination of the team’s desire to use money elsewhere, his unorthodox personality and actions, his increasing age and injuries and the emergence of fellow lefty pen mate King.  Through it all, the 32-year-old Pennsylvania native remained a fan favorite.  One of Kline’s charity activities was offering time at an area Hardees restaurant each season.

 

8:16 pm est

New Jersey Cardinals Press Release

DeJohn Named New Jersey Skipper

 

            On Monday, St. Louis Cardinals Director of Player Development Bruce Manno named Mark DeJohn manager of the New Jersey Cardinals.  DeJohn, replacing Tom Shields who had managed New Jersey for three consecutive seasons, will be joined by pitching coach Sid Monge and Trainer Manubu Kuwazuru.  Monge will be returning for his third season with New Jersey and Kuwazuru his second.

 

DeJohn begins his first season in New Jersey after spending the previous three season managing the Cardinals Double A franchise - two years in Tennessee (Southern League) and one year in New Haven (Eastern League).  Prior to becoming a minor league manager, DeJohn had served as a coach at the Major League level from 1996-2001.  He was the organization’s minor league field coordinator for three seasons and managed in the Cardinals farm system from 1986-1991.  He also managed in Detroit (Birmingham & London) and Kansas City’s (Eugene) minor league organizations.

 

Tom Shields, New Jersey’s manager from 02-04, will concentrate on scouting full time and will also be a roving instructor with the Cardinals organization.  New Jersey Cardinals Vice President & General Manager Tony Torre commented, “We want to thank Tom Shields for his past three years of service.  It was nice for Tom’s tenure to culminate in being named NY-Penn League Manager of the Year.  Tom managed our club to win and this past season was our most exciting since winning the league title in 1994.  We look forward to working with “DJ” this season.  Mark previously had been a roving instructor and visited us in 1994 in New Jersey.  I’ve known DJ for a number of years.  He will bring intensity and an off beat personality to our team.

 

DeJohn, an infielder, was originally drafted by the New York Mets in 1971 and played in their system through the 1977 season.  He signed with the Tigers in 1978 and reached the major leagues with the Tigers in 1982.

 

He made the transition to coach in 1983 serving as a minor league instructor for the Tigers.  He coached in Eugene (Northwest League) in 1985 but returned to the Tigers midway through the season.  Mark joined the Cardinals organization in 1986 when he managed the Savanah Cardinals (South Atlantic League) to a 75-60 record.  He spent two seasons there before moving on to Springfield (Midwest League) in 1988.  The next two years were with Johnson City in 89-90 (Appalachian League), then onto Detroit’s AA franchise in London, Ontario (Eastern League) in 1992, before returning to the Cardinals organization in 1993.

 

A native of Middletown, Connecticut, Mark has two children and currently resides in New Britain, Connecticut.

 

In his sixth year with the St. Louis organization, Sid Monge returns for his third consecutive season with the New Jersey Cardinals as the team’s pitching coach.  Monge spent the 2002 season with Potomac (Carolina League), 2001 with Johnson City (Appalachian League) and 2000 with Peoria (Midwest League).

 

During his 10 year major league career, Sid posted a 49-40 record with a  3.53 ERA.  He played with the Angels (75-77), Indians (77-81), Phillies (82-83), Padres (83-84), and Tigers (84).  Monge was a member of the 1979 American League All Star team when he posted career highs with 76 appearances, 12 wins, 108 strikeouts, and a 2.40 ERA.

 

Monge and his wife Carol have three children, Michael, Amanada, and John.

 

In addition, Trainer Manubu Kuwazuru returns for his second season in New Jersey.  “Boo” had previously worked with the University of Nebraska and the New York Jets.  He is the 7th Trainer in the teams 12 year history.

 

 

5:44 pm est

Pursuit of Hairston

 

My sources tell me that the Cardinals have been involved in numerous discussions with the Baltimore Orioles over a potential trade for second baseman Jerry Hairston.  The Cardinals like Hairston as a moderately-priced second baseman and leadoff hitter.  In fact, new hitting coach Hal McRae is said to be a strong Hairston supporter based on McRae’s time in the American League.

 

As I have predicted in previous articles, reports that the Orioles will simply non-tender Hairston by Monday night’s deadline will prove to be erroneous.  At this point, it has to be crystal clear to Baltimore’s co-general managers Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan that they possess a valuable trade commodity in Hairston.  Giving him away for nothing would be foolish.

 

At this point, I do not have any indication that the Cardinals and Orioles are on the verge of a deal.  While the two-headed Orioles GM has proven to be a difficult trade partner for some teams in the past, at least this proposed trade has progressed to the point that names were offered up.

 

Bo Hart, John Gall, Brad Thompson, Rhett Parrott and Reid Gorecki are allegedly included in the list of names discussed.  It is not clear whether they are players suggested by the Cards, but that is the implication I received.  Jeff Suppan is one name that interests the O’s, but to this point, the Cards have not made him available.

 

If not for Hairston, the lay of the land will still change for other players as Monday’s non-tender deadline passes.  Everyone, the Cardinals included, will be looking to see which players will become available for signing without compensation required to the former team.  That could certainly become the new preferred source for the Cardinals’ 2005 second baseman as soon as Tuesday.

 

8:51 am est

Another Second Baseman Lost?

 

Sunday’s midnight deadline for players to accept arbitration from their former teams came and went with very little action.  In fact, across MLB, only three of the 41 players eligible accepted their team’s offer.

 

Unfortunately, one of them has been a focus of the Cardinals.  Second baseman Placido Polanco accepted the Philadelphia Phillies offer.  That means he is on track to return to the Phillies and will most likely receive a nice salary increase over the $3.95 million he earned in 2004.

 

Polanco’s asking price as a free agent was rumored to be in the $5 million range already for a multi-year contract.  If he were to get to arbitration with the Phillies, that price range is a reasonable expectation of an amount Polanco could gain for a one-year deal.

 

Reports out of Philadelphia are that the Phillies did not really want Polanco back at that price.  The only offered him arbitration to ensure they would get a high draft pick in return when he signed elsewhere.  By accepting their offer, Polanco threw sand in the Phillies’ gears.  He likely did this after seeing that the market offers on the table, including the Cardinals’, were not to his liking.

 

Now, forced to proceed, the Phillies will likely consider trading Polanco.  Their future direction at second base is youngster Chase Utley.  So, all is not lost for the Cardinals.  They could still win Polanco with a trade offer that would likely include negotiations for a multi-year contract.  However, the arbitration filing does complicate matters for the Cards, as any deal would now have to include both Polanco’s agents and the Phillies.  The team will decide compensation for a trade, while the agents will decide compensation for the player.

 

The other two of the 41 eligible players who accepted arbitration are Houston’s Roger Clemens, who has not decided whether or not he will play in 2005, and Seattle reliever Ron Villone.  The 38 who rejected arbitration have only until January 8 to re-sign with their former team.  They also remain fair game for any other team to pursue.

 

Let’s look at this from the Cardinals’ perspective.  The Cardinals’ players offered arbitration, Edgar Renteria, Mike Matheny and Tony Womack, have all signed or agreed to sign elsewhere.  Any other of the 38 arbitration-eligible players that the Cardinals might have been interested in are still available to be signed.  Whatever compensation the former teams were due for a signing will remain in place. 

 

Therefore, other than the Polanco situation, Sunday night passed with no real significant changes to the Cardinals’ game plans for 2005.

 

The next deadline is much more significant; Monday’s non-tender deadline.  Teams looking to trim payroll or at least reallocate cash will cut any player loose to whom they did not make a 2005 contract offer.  As a result, the free agent pool will expand, perhaps significantly, on Tuesday.  More players will be available to sign without compensation required to the former team.

 

8:24 am est

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Last Word on Edgar

 

The less-than pleasant side of some members of the Cardinal Nation was raised this week after I reported on Tuesday afternoon that the Cardinals were sure that Edgar Renteria would be staying with the team. 

 

Later that evening, the Renteria contract situation was clearly deteriorating, although when I posted my second story of the day, more guarded than the first, the final resolution was not yet known.

 

When the Boston agreement came to light on Wednesday morning, frustration and hostility surfaced.  It needed to be directed somewhere at someone. 

 

Since that time, multiple stories from Boston and St. Louis paint a clear picture that the Cardinals believed they had a deal, just as was originally reported here.  However, the Red Sox upped their offer, unhooking the Cardinals, and won the prize.  About that, there is no debate.

 

The clearest confirmation may come from a post by Post-Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz in his forum.  Miklasz recounted his conversation with Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt.  “Then when they went 4-39, with some money deferred, DeWitt said he was told they had a deal.  This, according to DeWitt, who told me this last night.  But Pedro and his little friend were going bye-bye, to Flushing Meadows, and Edgar's reps were able to squeeze more out of Theo.” 

 

I hope those who reacted so wildly on Wednesday have come to realize by now what really happened. 

 

As a good friend regularly reminds me, cynicism is easy, but it is much harder to believe.  First nature for many is to suspect the worst in people’s motives.  There was no desire to publish false rumors here.  The information presented was verified to be true at the time it was reported and was publicly proven afterward.  However, what no one could predict was that the situation later changed rapidly and dramatically.  It is as simple as that.  No conspiracies or devious, underlying plans. 

 

The Cardinals were surprised and disappointed at what happened.  So was I.  For many reasons, it wasn’t a day for us fans or the Cardinals to remember.      

 

Happy Holidays and may those who would benefit most from belief find it during this special season.  My belief on the subject of baseball is that 2005 will be another tremendously exciting year for the Cardinals.  And, we’ll still be right here reporting about it.  We’ve been providing this service for a long time and aren’t about to stop now. 

 

8:03 am est

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Cards Get Ace:  Mark Mulder

 

ESPN has confirmed that the Cardinals have acquired left handed starting pitcher Mark Mulder from the Oakland A’s in return for starter Dan Haren, reliever Kiko Calero and catching prospect Daric Barton.

 

In the 27-year-old Mulder, St. Louis gets the #1 starter they craved at the prime of his career.  Better yet, they know they will have the Illinois native for at least the next two seasons.  A former 21-game winner, Mulder is signed for 2005 at $6 million with a buyout of $250,000 and a team option for 2006 at $7.25 million.

 

Mulder had an 81-42 record in five seasons with the A’s, registering a 3.92 career ERA.  In fact, he’s finished in the AL top ten in both wins and ERA in three of his five seasons.  Mulder is a two time All-Star, making the American League squad in both 2003 and 2004.  He finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 2001.

 

After that career year in 2001, Mulder struggled with injuries during 2002 and 2003.  Mulder missed the final six weeks of the 2003 season and the playoffs due to a stress fracture of his hip.  However, Mulder proved his health in 2004, pitching 225-2/3 innings.

 

When on his game, the 6-foot-6 Mulder is dominant.  He has four pitches; a low-90’s fastball, slider, curve and change-up.  Mulder’s delivery is deceptive, which befuddles opposing hitters even more.  He is known as a groundball pitcher and has only three errors in the past three seasons.  As many lefties are, Mulder is also good at holding runners on base. 

 

Walton’s take:  While I didn’t predict the exact player, I predicted the result.  Walt Jocketty pulled off a deal for a player no one expected at a time no one expected.  As a result, while the price was not cheap, he picked up one of the best pitchers in the game.

 

Dan Haren is ready to emerge and could be a fine pitcher for a long time.  But, he is not projected to have the future success that Mulder has already achieved, though Mulder is three years older.  While Kiko Calero has been a pleasant surprise for the Cardinals, let’s not forget that he was signed as a minor league free agent just two years ago.  Daric Barton, the Cards first round pick in 2003, looks to have a bright future ahead of him.  However, the 19-year-old is still a long way from the majors, having excelled in A-ball in 2004.  The jury is still out on whether the catcher’s final destination is behind the plate, or a corner outfield position, where he has yet to prove himself.  If it is the latter, his value will diminish, despite his excellent bat.

 

As I said, the price was not insignificant, but Walt Jocketty made the deal he had to make.  In doing so, he did not sacrifice the future of the team.  He traded up in one starting pitcher spot and lost a replaceable middle reliever.  Walt also surrendered the promising youngster Barton, but to pull off this trade, it was clearly worth it.

 

After serious disappointment over the past ten days, Jocketty has again given the Cardinal nation a reason to celebrate.  I predict this deal will go down in history alongside Jocketty’s other masterful trades made during his ten years at the helm.

8:04 pm est

Saturday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Kline, eh?

The Toronto Sun reports that after losing out on Matt Clement, the Blue Jays are expected to shift their focus to a right handed bat and relief pitching.  Former Cub outfielder Moises Alou and Steve Kline are thought by some to be the leading targets.

 

Still More Insight on Edgar

The P-D quotes Renteria agent Jeff Lane as saying that Renteria was willing to play for $5 million in 2005, but the back end money to compensate wasn’t offered until Edgar was already willing to take the Boston deal.  The Sox also greased the skids by making a “generous donation” to two Renteria-sponsored charities in Colombia.  This obvious attempt to demonstrate respect must have helped. 

 

Former Cardinals on the Move

Infielder Wilson Delgado (2003, spring training 2004) signed a minor league deal with the Florida Marlins and received an invitation to spring training.

 

Other Central Division News

Houston

Icon Agent Scott Boras is traveling next week to do some last minute Christmas shopping and while at it, may speak with Yankees and Astros ownership about free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.  A rumored casualty of Astros cash hoarding to try to pay Beltran may be pitcher Wade Miller.  A report from the Houston Chronicle suggests Miller may be non-tendered if he doesn’t accept a deal prior to the deadline.  Miller missed significant time in 2004 with a shoulder injury. 

 

Walton’s take:  Miller would be an interesting gamble for the Cards.  If they collect enough risky starters, the odds are that someone will have to come through.

 

1:06 pm est

Friday, December 17, 2004

Middle Infield Options

 

As expected, the Cardinals are busy exploring a number of free agent and trade alternatives to restock their middle infield starters.

 

Players whose agents I believe have been contacted by the Cardinals:

 

Orlando Cabrera, shortstop.  The former Expos and Red Sox shortstop is the premier remaining free-agent shortstop.  Other than the Cardinals, perhaps the Mariners and the Angels may show interest.  With many fewer teams remaining in the shortstop derby, it will be interesting to see if Cabrera’s strategy of waiting until Renteria signed will work out.  It could just as easily backfire if the market softens.  Perhaps the Cards are willing to wait Cabrera out.  His current demands are reported to be in Renteria territory.

 

Barry Larkin, shortstop.  The career-long Cincinnati Red will turn 41 years old in April.  Larkin has been injury-prone over the latter part of his career, averaging just a half-season (82 games) in four of his last five seasons.  Only in 2002 did Larkin play a full campaign (145 games).  He wants to be a starter, but is finding teams want him as a back-up.  The Cardinals reportedly feel the same way.  I wonder if he can play outfield.  Just because he hasn’t in his first 19 seasons doesn’t mean he can’t start now.

 

Miguel Cairo, second base.  Cairo started the 2004 season platooning at second base for the New York Yankees, but took over for Enrique Wilson and put together a solid campaign, his best in at least five seasons.  However, the Yankees were unable to settle with Cairo and agreed to terms with Tony Womack instead.      

 

Placido Polanco, second base.  Polanco has to decide if he is going to accept the Philadelphia Phillies’ offer of arbitration.  In the meantime, the Cardinals are among the teams with whom his agent has talked contract.  The amount of deferred money proposed by the team may be the largest sticking point at this time.

 

Players who I believe have been the result of trade inquiries:

 

Jerry Hairston, second base, Baltimore.  Hairston has already lost the starting job for Baltimore to Brian Roberts without even stepping on the field in 2005.  The 28-year-old played the outfield in 2004, but the Orioles are well-stocked there already.  When healthy, Hairston is a very good leadoff man.  He’s improved his batting average and on-base percentage each of the last three seasons.  However, he missed much of the last two seasons with injury.  While he made only $1.65 million last season, some reports have suggested that Hairston will be non-tendered.  Instead, my sources suggest that the O’s will keep Hairston long enough to get value in return.

 

Orlando Hudson, second base, Toronto.  Hudson just turned 27 and has 2-1/2 years of major league experience.  His minimum salary for a player with that service time makes Hudson more appealing.  Unless he is a “Super Two”, Hudson has one more low-budget season left.  On the field, he lacks the speed of Hairston, but has more pop, having driven in 57 and 58 runs the past two seasons.  Hudson has improved his on-base percentage each year, registering a .341 mark in 2004.

 

11:09 pm est

Friday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

King Re-signs

MLB.com reports that left handed reliever Ray King has agreed to re-sign with the Cardinals for 2005 and 2006.  The team holds an option for 2007.  Terms were not immediately available.  King was eligible for arbitration after making $1 million last season.

 

Walton’s take:  Unless the dollars are incredibly absurd, it was a good idea to lock King up now.  He has proven himself to be both durable and effective.  With Steve Kline gone, King will be expected to carry a heavy load in the upcoming seasons.  In fact, unless another trusty bullpen lefty surfaces, King may get more work against right handed hitters, who hit .248 against him last season.  Left handed batters registered a mark of just .150 when facing King.

 

Edgar’s Deal Taken

$4 million signing bonus.  Salaries of $7 million, $8 million, $9 million and $9 million.  The 2009 buyout is 3 million or the team has an $11 million option for that season. 

 

Walton’s take:  As I said the other day, the Cardinals’ deal, while fair, was not as close as one would think.  If Boston's option is exercized, the four-year, $40 million deal would grow to a five-year, $48 million deal.  Plus, the Cards deal included interest on the deferred money.  How much more would the Sox deal be worth if Edgar invested his signing bonus and that amount was added to the $40 or $48 million?

 

Edgar’s Deals Not Taken

The Providence Journal states that Edgar Renteria turned down a five-year, $50 million deal and a four-year, $44 million offer before joining the Red Sox.  The Journal was not sure which teams were involved, though they suspected Seattle and Detroit, not necessarily in that order.

 

Walton’s take:  Was the Cards’ deal really only fourth best?

 

Diaz Deal Doings

Catcher Einar Diaz’ contract for $600,000 also includes another $225,000 in performance bonuses.

 

Reyes Returns

Reliever Al Reyes will be back on a $600,000 contract.

 

Walton’s take:  A good, low-cost option in the pen.

 

Former Cardinals on the Move

Lefty reliever Jason Christiansen (2000-01) re-signed with the San Francisco Giants while catcher Mike DiFelice (1996-97, 2002) joined the Florida Marlins after spending much of 2004 in Triple-A.  In what some called a salary dump, Eli Marrero (1997-2003) moved from Atlanta to Kansas City in a trade for a minor league pitcher.  He will remain exclusively an outfielder and platoon in left for the Royals.

 

11:05 pm est

Cardinals Free Agent Contest Update

 

With the recent signings of Mike Matheny with the San Francisco Giants and Edgar Renteria by the Boston Red Sox, seven of the nine Cardinals free agents now have 2005 homes. With that, it is time to again update our Birdhouse contest standings.

 

Three, Cal Eldred, John Mabry and Matt Morris, are returning to the Cardinals, Tony Womack is still slated to sign with the New York Yankees and Woody Williams joined the San Diego Padres.

 

Only three readers predicted many as three of the seven, and as a result, are tied for first place.  Two of the readers correctly identified the three Cardinals’ returnees.  They are J Koch and David Sueme.  Christian D also correctly selected three.  He missed on Matt Morris, but gets a big nod for being the only entrant to put Woody in San Diego. 

 

Actually, there is a fourth contest participant who has also three correct answers.  It is none other than Birdhouse co-editor Ray Mileur, who was the only person who correctly called the Renteria signing in Boston.  Maybe we shouldn’t count that one.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are ten readers, myself included, who still have only one correct answer.  Only because of the widely-expected return of John Mabry, not a single predictor has been shut out.  For us, the chance to win this contest is officially over.  Mathematical elimination is no less painful than the real thing.

 

Womack and Matheny were the longest shots, as not a single contestant correctly identified their new teams in advance.

 

Look for another progress report as Steve Kline and Ray Lankford decide their 2005 homes.  All of the leaders have Kline on the Yankees in 2005.  So, it could come down to Lankford, as Sueme is the only leader who has him playing in 2005 (for the Cardinals). 

 

It that still does not break the tie, the decision will fall to the tiebreaker, as only two of the three leaders will win a prize.  (Ray gets nothing!)  The tiebreaker is the number of free agents from other teams that the Cardinals will have signed by March 1.  The current number is one, catcher Einar Diaz, but that is sure to change in the upcoming weeks.

 

9:43 pm est

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Renteria: Respected and Valued

 

Edgar Renteria’s own words are what he "most wanted was respect and to be valued as a player" (Boston Globe).  After clearly thinking that they had met those requirements, the Cardinals ended up “surprised and disappointed” (Joe Strauss, Post-Dispatch) when Edgar made his decision to sign with Boston. 

 

In Edgar’s view, the Cardinals apparently fell short on both counts; respect and value. 

 

Respect.  It may seem like an intangible to some, but is especially important in the Latin American cultures.  Respect was something that Edgar stated he received more of from Boston than the Cardinals.  Some cynics might argue that respect is the same as value is the same as money, but there is more to it than that. 

 

Without knowing exactly what was said to whom when, I want to believe Walt Jocketty’s assertion that maximum respect was shown by the Cardinals.  To that end, Jocketty “seemed befuddled” by Renteria’s comments (Bernie Miklasz, P-D).  There are some good examples to support Walt’s reaction. 

 

Think of La Russa’s repeated designation of Edgar as “The Captain”.  One might surmise that La Russa had selected this time to publicly reemphasize the value of Edgar’s quiet, not generally-known leadership.  That is clearly respect.

 

The fact that La Russa by nature is more hands-on than many managers in personnel issues also helped respect Edgar.  Fluent in Spanish, La Russa personally spoke with Edgar multiple times throughout the process, according to the P-D.

 

However, that must not have been good enough.  Again, Renteria to The Globe, "I know the St. Louis team and fans wanted me to stay, but [management] didn't try hard to keep me -- that's what I felt in the negotiations."

 

Sadly, respect for Edgar in Boston may be a hit and miss proposition.  As even the Boston press acknowledges, the hypercritical nature of Red Sox Nation may prove to be difficult at times for Renteria to handle.  But, of course, that would be in the future. 

 

All the right things will be said by all the right people on Friday, when the signing press conference is expected.   Time will tell.

 

Now, let’s shift to the other factor, value.

 

Value.  The by-year terms of Boston’s offer of $40 million for four years, plus an option for the fifth year, have not yet been released.  However, The Globe says the Sox’ winning bid contains “mostly upfront money”.  The P-D clearly stated that the Red Sox deal has no deferred cash.  In addition, the Sox deal also has that option year, which the Cards bid apparently did not. 

 

We can surmise that the fifth year is a team option.  If it were a player option, that amount would be guaranteed to the player and therefore, added into the base of the contract.  In that less likely case, say the base contract is four years, $38 million, with a $2 million player option for 2009.  That is how one could get to 4/40.  Again, I use that as an illustration only.  Signs point to a team option for year five that is not included in the $40 million, raising its perceived, if not real, value even further.

 

Further ahead of what?  The P-D reports the Cards raised their offer to $36 million on Monday.  Deferred money and interest “could have brought the package up to $39 million.”   Could have.

 

Despite Miklasz’ contention that the Cardinals “virtually matched” the Red Sox’ offer, I don’t see it that way.  One deal sure looks more appealing than the other.  Clearly, Renteria thought so too, or he would still be a Cardinal.

 

Outside factors.  Numerous Boston sources made a direct connection between the agreement between Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets on Monday and the additional money the Red Sox added to close the Renteria deal on Tuesday.  An indirect connection has been made suggesting a strong desire by the Sox to strike quickly after the bad news of them losing Pedro came to light.  Now that shoe is squarely on the Cardinals’ foot.

 

Perspective.  Overall, contract escalation across MLB and specifically, the size of this deal seems high to a mid-market team like the Cardinals.  However, it has a lot to do with one’s perspective.  It is worth remembering that former Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra turned down a four-year, $60 million extension last off-season.  The Red Sox, with a payroll that looks to be 50% higher than the Cardinals ($130 million range versus $85 million range) would do what St. Louis could not.  The market simply priced Edgar out of the Cardinals willingness to pay.

 

La Russa confirmed that to the P-D.  "I think we went beyond reasonable for us…There is a figure that doesn't make sense for us. That money can only go so far.  If another club wants a guy for more than what you think the market is for him, then they've got him.  I thought $8 million was at the top of where we needed to be.  That's what he indicated he wanted to stay. And that still wasn't enough."

 

The Cardinals thought they were where they “needed to be”, but as the Globe put it, Boston “trumped” them during the final hours. 

 

Still, the Cards are far from nowhere.  They will respect and value others, too, as they fill out the 2005 team.

 

1:33 pm est

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Type A Free-Agents Offered Arbitration

Compensation for Matheny and Renteria

 

The purpose of this article is to provide answers to the question of what compensation the Cardinals may receive for Mike Matheny and Edgar Renteria, two former players offered arbitration by the team.  I say “may” instead of “will” because this could change every time either signing team adds another free agent.  More on that below.   

 

For those who are impatient and just want the bottom line, here you go.  The current answer is a late first rounder, a late second rounder and two supplemental picks between the first and second rounds.

 

For those who want to understand why, read on.  First, the basics, repeated from my November 4 story, “Six Year Free Agents Made Simple(r?)”.

 

Free Agent Types

There are four types of free agents; Types A, B and C and others.  They have been designated in this manner since the settlement of the 1981 strike.  The intent is to ensure the former team is compensated for losing key players.

 

How Players are Rated

The Elias Sports Bureau runs statistical calculations for each league based on two-year results in areas like batting average, home runs, RBI and starts, innings, ERA, strikeouts and saves.  First, they place every player into one of five position groupings, then based on the comparative results of the calculations for each grouping, into one of the four Types; A, B, C or other.

 

Elias Position Groupings

First base / Outfield (plus Designated Hitter in AL)

Second base / Shortstop / Third Base

Catcher

Starting Pitcher

Relief Pitcher

 

Compensation by Player Type

 

Compared to all players in that position grouping

Signing team compensation to former team if arbitration was offered (or if the player signs by December 7)

Additional compensation

Type A

Top 30%

First round pick or (if in first half of draft), a second round pick instead

Supplemental (or extra) pick at end of first round

Type B

31 – 50%

First round pick or (if in first half of draft), a second round pick instead

 

Type C

51 - 60%

Supplemental pick after second round

 

Others

61 – 100%

No compensation

 

 

Matheny Compensation

With all that in mind, let’s start with the San Francisco Giants.  They have picked up three Type A free agents to date.  The calendar order or sequence in which they signed is immaterial.  In fact, the only column in the table below that matters is the comparative Elias Rankings.  That alone determines which former team gets which of the Giants’ picks.

 

As a result, the Marlins own the Giants’ first round pick (#22) because Armando Benitez has a higher ranking than Mike Matheny.  When Matheny signed, he bumped Omar Vizquel down the pecking order, as the Cards now hold the Giants’ second rounder.  All three former teams get a supplemental pick between the first two rounds.

 

Giants Free-Agent Signings               

Date signed

Player

Former team

League

Position

grouping

Type

Rank w/in league, position and type

Elias Ranking w/in league, position and type

Round pick lost

11/14 

Omar Vizquel

Indians

AL

SS/2B/3B

A

#21

66.234

3

11/30 

Armando Benitez

Marlins

NL

RP

A

#8

85.478

1

12/14 

Mike Matheny

Cards

NL

C

A

#7

72.973

2

 

Renteria Compensation

Moving on to the Boston Red Sox, when Edgar Renteria is signed, he will be the third free-agent signee by the Red Sox also.  In this case, so far Renteria is the highest ranking Type A free agent the Sox brought in, so the Sox’ late first rounder would go to the Cards.  They would also get the supplemental first rounder like all Type As fetch.

 

Prior to Renteria, the Padres would have received that first rounder for Wells.  Now, it will slide to a second-rounder.

 

Note:  Matt Mantei is included here for illustration purposes only.  Since he was not offered arbitration by the Diamondbacks, they will not receive any compensation for him.

 

Red Sox Free-Agent Signings

Date signed

Player

Former team

League

Position grouping

Type

Rank w/in league, position and type

Elias Ranking w/in league, position and type

Round pick lost

12/08 

Matt Mantei

D’backs

NL

RP

A

#31

68.678

NA

12/14 

David Wells

Padres

NL

SP

A

#15

78.667

2

TBD 

Edgar Renteria

Cards

NL

2B/SS/3B

A

#4

89.655

1

 

So, in conclusion, the Cards get a late first rounder for Renteria, a late second rounder for Matheny and one first round supplemental pick for each.

 

While not equivalent to what has been lost, these draft selections can be used to help the continued restocking of the farm system.  Note these picks cannot be traded, but that is another story for another day.

 

Now, beware.  As I said before, this pecking order may change when these two signing teams, the Giants and the Red Sox, add other players via free agency.

 

P.S. Don’t Forget Womack

Interestingly enough, Tony Womack agreed to terms with the Yankees over a week ago, but has still not signed.  He is a Type C free agent, requiring no compensation from the Yankees, but a supplemental second round pick will be awarded to the Cards if/when he signs. 
 
8:42 pm est

Monday, December 13, 2004

Cardinals Rule 5 Triple and Double-A Results

 

Following the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft on Monday, 51 players were selected in the Triple-A part ($12,500) of the draft and another dozen at the Double-A ($5,000) level.  The Cardinals were busy, selecting three players while losing two.

 

The 21st pick in the Triple-A phase was third baseman Antonio Granadillo, who was taken by the Red Sox off the Tennessee roster.  Granadillo split the season between Johnson City and New Jersey, and hit .297 combined.

 

The 23rd pick went to the Cardinals, who selected second baseman Mathew Demarco from Florida.  Demarco, 24, has already played eight seasons of minor league ball for three different organizations.  He was an 11th round pick of the Dodgers in 1998.  Demarco ended the 2004 season in Double-A, where he hit .273 with 45 RBI in 379 at-bats.  He is a career .261 hitter.

 

At pick #40, the Cardinals took right handed starter Jose Garcia from Texas.  Garcia had mixed results in 2004.  In the California League (A), he registered an ERA of 7.00 in 72 innings.  Joining the Midwest League, Garcia delivered a 2.89 ERA in 56-2/3 innings.  The 23-year-old Venezuelan reached Double-A with the Rangers in 2003 after pitching at Single-A for the Yankees.  He was part of the Alfonso Soriano trade.

 

Right hander Josh Teekel was taken from Tennessee by Florida at selection #50.  Teekel, 24, started for Palm Beach after missing the 2003 season.  He was the Cards’ sixth round pick back in 1999.

 

In the Double-A phase, the Cards lost no players and selected one.  That is right hander Justin Knoff from the Cincinnati organization.  He struck out 23 in 27 innings this past season, posting an ERA of 2.00.  Knoff pitched in relief and ended the season in the Midwest League.  Knoff, 23, was the Reds’ 30th round selection in the 2002 amateur draft.

 

6:41 pm est

No selections by Cardinals

Johnson Lost in Rule 5

 

Sadly, the Cardinals did not protect left-hander Tyler Johnson on their 40-man roster.  As a result, he was selected by the Oakland A’s with the eighth pick in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft on Monday.

 

Johnson possesses an excellent curve ball and is projected as a major league reliever.  While his 2004 ERA of 4.79 at Tennessee was not impressive, his 77 strikeouts in 56-1/3 innings was.

 

All the Redbirds have to show for Johnson is the paltry sum of $50,000.  Why the team chose not to protect Johnson instead of guys like Mike Mahoney amazes me.

 

Johnson must remain on the A’s 25-man roster all season or be offered back to the Cards for $25,000.  With a crowded roster in Oakland, that remains a possibility.

 

The Cardinals did not take any players in the major league phase, as only twelve players were selected overall. 

 

2:01 pm est

Monday morning edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Walt extending for Edgar?

Joe Strauss of the P-D is expecting the Cardinals to either increase the value of the four-year deal offered to Edgar Renteria or add an option for a fifth year.  But, one of Renteria’s two agents has already left the meetings, indicating that a deal is not near.  Implied was the $38 million mark for four years or a fifth-year guarantee is what is desired.  Peter Gammons identified Seattle and Detroit as other serious suitors, making bigger offers than St. Louis.  The Angels are no longer interested.  Lack of conclusion with the Renteria situation seems to be limiting other actions on the part of Jocketty.

 

More deferred money?

Strauss speculates that Jason Isringhausen and perhaps others will be asked to defer more money to free up room for Edgar.  He also notes Izzy’s deferral offer will probably also affect his 2006 option, implying it could be guaranteed now.

 

Matheny gone

The P-D reports that Mike Matheny has agreed to a three-year, $9 million contract with the Giants and is en route to San Francisco for a Monday announcement.

 

Revised Hudson offer

The Cards are allegedly pushing Jeff Suppan, Rick Ankiel and Kiko Calero.  The A’s reportedly prefer Jason Marquis, Dan Haren or Ankiel plus catching prospect Daric Barton.  As a result, it seems the two sides are not close.

 

Burnett a new entrant          

The Miami Herald links pitcher A.J. Burnett to the Cardinals – along with the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Diamondbacks.  The latter deal would be yet another variation of the three-way trade with the Yankees getting Randy Johnson.

 

Yearning for Yan?

The Anaheim Angels are “on the verge” of signing Esteban Yan to a two-year contract for about $3 million says the LA Times.  Unbelievable.

 

Manny on the block again

Various news services state the Red Sox are again trying to trade outfielder Manny Ramirez, this time to the Mets, ostensibly to free up money to acquire other players.  Does this have any impact on the Renteria situation?  One version of the story has shortstop Kaz Matsui involved.  The Mets might get on Renteria if they move Matsui.

 

Milton maybe not a Yankee

Eric Milton is not leaping at the three-year, $21 million contract proposed by the New York Yankees.  As a result, they may pull the offer.  Milton wants $8 million per.  Eric, take it, man.

 

Boras cooking deals

Agent Scott Boras is under increasing criticism that not only are his clients not signing, but they are slowing the overall market.  His response in the Detroit News is that he expects one or two of his clients to be signed by the end of the day Monday.  That could mean Michigan native Derek Lowe or J.D. Drew, to whom the Tigers have already offered $9 million per year.  Rotoworld speculates one of them is Kevin Millwood, who would sign an incentive-laden one year deal with either the Cardinals or Braves.  Matthew Leach reports that Boras’ Sunday meeting with the Cards was a “full roster evaluation”, but got no specifics. 

 

8:57 am est

Cardinals Free Agent Contest Update

 

I was waiting for Edgar Renteria to sign before writing this update, but I am beginning to believe that nothing is going to happen with Edgar for some time.  Since five of the nine Cardinals free agents have 2005 homes now, an update of the standings is still warranted.

 

The five resolved are Cal Eldred, John Mabry and Matt Morris returning to the Cardinals, Tony Womack to the New York Yankees and Woody Williams to the San Diego Padres.

 

Only three readers have as many as three of the five correct, and as a result, are tied for first place.  Two of the readers correctly identified the three Cardinals’ returnees.  They are J Koch and David Sueme.  Christian D also correctly selected three.  He missed on Matt Morris, but gets a big nod for being the only entrant to put Woody in San Diego.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are ten readers, myself included, who have only one correct answer so far.  Primarily due to the return of John Mabry, not a single predictor has been shut out.

 

Look for the next update in the near future as the status of Steve Kline, Ray Lankford, Mike Matheny and Edgar Renteria is decided.

 

7:22 am est

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Sunday evening edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Renteria

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Edgar’s agent, Jeff Lane, re-approached Walt Jocketty to tell him that Renteria was not close to signing with the Red Sox.  This smells like a ploy to induce the Cards to increase their bid of four years, $32 million.  Peter Gammons says it is only 50-50 that the Red Sox will have enough money left to offer Renteria four years, $38 million after paying for top priorities Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek.  Implied was that the big Red Sox offer has not yet been tendered.  On Sunday, Lane met with the Detroit Tigers, with whom he had a “very impressive” meeting.  Why the Tigers want another shortstop when they already have one seems odd, but not out of the question.  Looks to me like Lane is trying his best to drive up the price for the Cardinals.  Here’s hoping Walt holds firm.

 

Kline

The Toronto Sun calls Steve Kline the Blue Jays’ top priority after Corey Koskie and Matt Clement.

 

11:35 pm est

Sunday morning edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Renteria

The Cards set their top amount they would pay.  Unless Renteria is willing to take less than Boston’s offer to return to the Cardinals, he is gone.  However, Peter Gammons says Saturday’s reports of Renteria’s imminent signing by Boston were premature.  The Red Sox’ top priority is to ensure they have enough cash to re-sign Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek.  We should know more today.

 

Renteria’s agents, Barry Meister and Jeffrey Lane, are pushing hard to get the best deal possible for their client while Renteria is sitting at home in Colombia.  While I do not know this, I have a feeling that when push comes to shove, Edgar will decide to stay in St. Louis.  Maybe I am being too optimistic, but I still think it could happen.

 

Jocketty is saying he will use the Renteria money on pitching if Edgar leaves.  But, it may be too late for several of the top pitching prizes.

 

Clement

The Los Angeles Daily News reports the Dodgers are “heavy favorites” to sign Matt Clement.

 

Hudson

The San Jose Mercury News reports the Dodgers will announce the acquisition of Tim Hudson on Sunday for pitcher Edwin Jackson and second baseman Antonio Perez.  The P-D says the Cards will not part with Jason Marquis and lack the second baseman the A’s desire.  The Sporting News’ Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees and Red Sox are trying to work deals for Hudson.

 

Millwood/Lowe           

As Ray Mileur reported here first yesterday, the P-D reported today that the Cards have spoken with agent Scott Boras about free agent pitcher Derek Lowe.  They also inquired about another Boras client, Kevin Millwood.  Given Boras is involved, do not expect quick signings.

 

Milton/Zito/Mulder

The P-D mentions all three as possibilities if the Cards cannot get Hudson.  Forget the A’s guys. GM Billy Beane will not trade two of his starters after Mark Redman and Hudson are gone.  Maybe in 12 months, but not now.  Milton seems to be a lock to join the Yankees.  

 

Matheny

The Post-Dispatch says that Cards will not increase their two-year, $4 million offer to Mike Matheny.  They expect to lose him to the Giants, Dodgers or perhaps, Pirates.

 

Morris

The P-D reports what we assumed all along.  Matt Morris will not be able to start the season in the rotation due to his shoulder surgery and is projected not to be ready to throw 100 pitches until the sixth week of the season (mid-May).  He may be ready to start the season in the bullpen.

 

Haren

As a result of the Morris situation, Dan Haren has been mentioned as the #5 starter in the interim.  Of course, trades and signings could change this.

 

Larkin

The Cards have had preliminary talks with free agent shortstop Barry Larkin’s agent.  Signing a fragile 40-year-old is not something I ever hope to see happen.  Want to be scared for a minute?  Think about a double-play combination of Larkin and Roberto Alomar.  Let’s hope it never gets to that point.

 

Middle infield

The team will act on Placido Polanco if Renteria is not signed.  They are also interested in Miguel Cairo, who lost his job to Tony Womack in New York.  Jocketty has not spoken to Tampa Bay about shortstop Julio Lugo.

 

Rule 5

Don’t forget that the Rule 5 draft is Monday.  Cardinals Tyler Johnson and John Nelson are at greatest risk of being selected.  Expect the Cards to at least make a Triple-A selection as they did last year with shortstop Rayner Laya.

 

Cubs Frustrated Again

Brewers closer Dan Kolb was traded to the Braves Saturday for pitcher Jose Capellan and a player to be named.  The Cubs had tried to get Kolb earlier without success.  Too bad for them!

9:16 am est

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Saturday edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Another Rough Ankiel Outing

Rick Ankiel seems to be alternating good and bad starts.  Friday, he gave up three runs and six hits in 2-1/3 innings yesterday for Carolina of the Puerto Rican League.  Ankiel struck out four but walked none.  He uncorked a wild pitch and made an error.  For the winter, Ankiel is now 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA.  His strikeout to walk ratio is a strong 29/3 in 22-2/3 innings and his strikeout total leads the league.  Battermate Yadier Molina is hitting .250.

 

Seabol Done

Third baseman Steve Seabol left the Mazatlan Deer of the Mexican Winter League after hitting just .140 in ten games.  Seabol was added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster last month.

 

Gall South of the Border

John Gall, playing left field, made his first appearance of the Mexican Winter League season on Friday for the Mazatlan Deer.  He went 1-for-4.  Just like last season, Gall joined the Deer mid-season as Seabol left.

 

Matheny in Demand

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have expressed interest in free agent catcher Mike Matheny. 

 

6:08 pm est

ESPN’s Jayson Stark Checking in from Winter Meetings

 

The Cardinals are back in on Randy Johnson.  Yankees and D’backs haven’t spoken in 11 days now.

 

Edgar Renteria to Red Sox could happen very soon.  Key indicator is that the Cards are going hard after Orlando Cabrera now.

 

Pedro Martinez is going back to Red Sox.  Only issue now is final terms.  Cards might have dabbled briefly, but not now.  Red Sox have no competition.

 

5:19 pm est

Pedro or Not? – Try Not

              

The Boston Herald quotes a “source close to” Pedro Martinez, who claimed the Cardinals placed a three-year deal on the table that Pedro would “seriously consider accepting”.  Later, they backed off to say only that there is strong interest.

 

However, as usual, another source says just the opposite.  Saturday morning, the Boston Globe quoted an unnamed Cardinals official as saying the team was “not pursuing” Martinez. 

 

I am with the Globe, as we have believed all along here that Pedro will not be a Cardinal.

 

Renteria

The Globe goes on to note that the Sox are making a run at Edgar Renteria as Joe Strauss of the P-D reports Renteria’s demands are up to four years, $40 million.  Jocketty mentioned a “soft deadline” to sign him, which is really no deadline at all.

 

Hudson

The Globe notes there are now eight teams after Tim Hudson.  Jocketty’s comments in the P-D imply he is working harder on Renteria than getting a starting pitcher right now.  Don’t wait too long, Walt!

 

Clement

Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News suggests the Cards remain in the Matt Clement hunt along with four other teams. 

 

Vazquez

Rosenthal and Strauss join those who have mentioned the idea of a Yankees, Diamondbacks, three-team deal for Randy Johnson that would put Javier Vazquez in St. Louis.  No one seems to think this is high odds.

 

8:06 am est

Friday, December 10, 2004

Throw it at the Wall

 

Birdhouse contributing writer Joe Mammy gave me a clear opening the other day to slam ESPN’s Peter Gammons and I passed.  Maybe a bad decision, as I can’t let the opportunity pass twice. 

 

In his first report from the winter meetings, Gammons provided an update on Edgar Renteria, telling the world that Walt Jocketty has upped his offer to $36 million for four years.  This was apparently in response to the Detroit Tigers having made that proposal first.  Better yet, Boston supposedly also matched the earlier four years for $32 million bid.

 

Fair enough?  Well, not so fast.  In the very next sentence, neither missing a beat, nor explaining the obvious contradiction, Gammons throws more on the wall.  He points out that catcher Jason Varitek’s $9 million per year means the Red Sox will go for a cost cutting shortstop, such as Pokey Reese or Craig Counsell.  Julio Lugo and Kaz Matsui were named, but only if the team is willing to raise its budget to $140 million.

 

I guess if you throw enough names out there, you’ll eventually be right.  By my count, Gammons linked five other shortstops to the Red Sox in two paragraphs, barely mentioning their own incumbent, Orlando Cabrera.

 

But, let’s return to the most important point.  If this is true, Renteria’s price is getting too rich.  It’s got to be getting to the point where Jocketty will need to move to Plan B if he is going to be used just to leverage Edgar’s price up and up.

 

Hudson Stealth Bid Lost

 

In his past dealings, Walt Jocketty has done best when flying under the radar.  Now that the winter meetings have started, his cover has been blown.  Not only does everyone know that he is after Oakland’s Tim Hudson, now other teams are able to make other possibly stronger bids.

 

Nothing more substantive is known now, but my gut tells me the odds decrease by the hour.  Given the likely escalating price, that might be just fine.

 

11:25 pm est

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Extension True Measure of any Hudson Deal

 

Cardinal Nation is ablaze over trade rumors for Oakland A’s starter Tim Hudson, allegedly in return for Jason Marquis and Dan Haren.  First, note that the deal is not done; just rumored.  Others have different guesses on which players might be involved, but it’s the usual subjects – Ankiel, Barton and Calero.  But, there is no doubt that Hudson would surely be that true #1 pitcher the team has longed for. 

 

However, the true measure of the deal will be if a contract extension is involved, and if so, under what terms.

 

Hudson is signed for 2005 for $6 million and wanted an extension from the A’s prior to March 1 or he will become a free agent at the end of the season.  Simply put, if there is an extension involved and it is for a decent price, this could be a good trade.  If there is no extension or if the contract is for an above-market price, the trade will not look nearly as good as we may watch Marquis and Haren win games for Oakland for many years to come.

 

The most optimistic scenario I could envision is that the Cards and A’s have agreed in principle, with Jocketty given 72 hours of exclusivity to try to negotiate an extension with Hudson.  Both sides would agree to keep it quiet until resolution one way or another.  However, practically speaking, Walt’s time is short.  Once the general managers get together, any tentative deal could come unraveled in a hurry.   Hudson is a highly-desirable commodity. 

 

Now, there is always the chance that Jocketty will roll the dice and bring Hudson to town and use playing for the team to sell the extension.  However, this would be a much higher risk than when he did it with Mark McGwire back in 1997.  After all, Marquis and Haren are a much bigger loss than Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein.

 

The mainstream media will do a better job than I of recapping Hudson’s stats and pointing out how good of a pitcher he is.  Trust them all.  92-39 won-loss record, former 20-game winner, career 3.30 ERA, etc.  He is really, really good.  I would just add that Hudson is adept at inducing the ground ball, which will serve him well, especially if the middle of the Cardinals infield is set with guys who can catch and throw.

 

If there is a deal, that is. 

 

4:07 pm est

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Why the Gas House Gang Aren’t Playing Today

 

Let’s face it.  Those who seemingly want to see the entire 2004 Cardinals roster return are living in the past, just like those great Cardinals teams of the 1930’s.  The reality of baseball is that players need to move on due to age, injury, ineffectiveness or yes, even salary considerations. 

 

It may be boring to read, but I agree with every single move that Walt Jocketty made on Tuesday.  Perhaps that is because I had already predicted most all of them.  The only exceptions were Matt Morris, due to his recent surgery, and Cal Eldred, which is a very low risk deal.

 

Let’s quickly at each situation.

 

Williams – Not tendered.  The team needs to improve at two starting pitching spots and Williams held one of them.  He would not have signed at the reduced amount the Cards would have offered him.  Offering Woody arbitration would have been utterly stupid, as he would have been guaranteed $6 million or more.  Wish him luck in whatever he decides to do next.

 

Morris – Agreed to $2.5 million one-year deal with $4.5 million in incentives.  This situation changed with Morris recent surgery and is a good hedge by Walt.  If nothing else, Morris can be a long reliever/spot starter until his strength is back.  After all, he’s worth as much as Julian Tavarez, isn’t he?  And if Morris comes through and achieves all his incentives, the Cards will have a pretty darned good hurler.

 

Renteria – Offered arbitration.  Good first step, but the Cards are not out of the woods yet.  Edgar either needs to sign or at least accept arbitration as the next step.  The market for $8 million plus per year shortstops is dwindling, but there could still be a surprise suitor out there.  I still believe a deal will be worked out for him to return.  But, I believe it will not be a one year deal via arbitration.  Edgar might make more in the long haul by taking a one year contract and having a better 2005, then cashing in bigger next year.  But, he plays best when uncertainties in his life are reduced.

 

Matheny – Offered arbitration.  I was one of the few who was not surprised by this, though I think it may take more than two years, $4 million to sign Mike.  Yadier Molina’s future is becoming cloudier as a result.  Think trade.

 

Mabry – One year, $750,000.  Likely was willing to take less to return.  Comparable to last year’s deal and great for both parties.  A very good signing.

 

Eldred – One year, $600,000.  If I had thought Cal would accept a 33% pay cut, I would have predicted his re-signing.  Like Mabry, he obviously wants to remain a Cardinal.  It is low risk, even if he doesn’t pitch well enough in the spring to make the team.

 

Kline – Non-tendered.  Kline will likely fetch $6 million for two years on the open market.  The Cards have Ray King and other options for a second lefty that are much less pricey.  Good decision.

 

Womack – Two years, $4 million from the Yankees.  Good for Tony.  Only Steinbrenner would take this kind of risk.  All I can think of is the parallel with 35-year-old Fernando Vina getting a bloated two-year deal from the Tigers and delivering almost nothing.  There will be other second base/leadoff hitter options that are lower risk and potentially higher reward. 

 

I’d like nothing better than to see both Womack and Kline in the other dugout in the World Series, but I would not commit up to $10 million to keep them for two years.  That money is needed elsewhere.

 

While I give Walt an “A” to date, this is just the first term of a four-semester class.  So far, so good, but there is a lot of work remaining ahead.

 

8:24 am est

It's that time again...

Winter Meetings Suit Walt

 

Anyone who thinks the Cardinals are going to sign a big-name free agent pitcher such as Pedro Martinez or Eric Milton should think again.  A review of Walt Jocketty’s recent history shows that he’ll make his big move via trade and more than likely, very soon.

 

While arbitration is currently on everyone’s minds, let’s remember that this upcoming week has been one of the most fruitful trading periods of the year for Jocketty during his decade of service as the Cardinals’ general manager, both in terms of additions and additions by subtraction. 

 

With the 2004 General Managers Meeting starting on Friday in Anaheim, California, let’s look back at a few recent examples of how the master of trades productively spent his early-winter working vacation.

 

December 14, 1998 – Edgar Renteria is traded from the Florida Marlins to the Cardinals in return for Armando Almanza, Braden Looper and Pablo Ozuna.

 

Renteria survived one year longer following the Marlins’ stunning 1997 World Series victory than most of his teammates, like Al Leiter, Moises Alou, Kevin Brown and many more who were scattered to the winds in the Fish’ budget tightening.  As soon as Renteria headed toward joining them in big bucks land via the promise of arbitration, he was traded away.

 

December 21, 1999 – Fernando Vina becomes a Cardinal, coming from the Milwaukee Brewers in return for Juan Acevedo and two players to be named later (Eliezer Alfonzo and Matt Parker).

 

Vina sparked the top of the Cardinals lineup and played Gold Glove defense, but his on-base percentage dropped each of his three subsequent seasons after he sported a solid .380 OBP in 2000.  Vina missed most of 2003 due to injuries and after signing with Detroit, only played in 29 games last season.

 

1999 preview.  The signing of Vina was actually a holiday bonus, as Walt apparently got most of his 1999 Christmas shopping done early.  He had already done pretty well for himself and the team following the November General Managers Meeting. 

 

On November 12, 1999, Jocketty added Pat Hentgen and Paul Spoljaric from Toronto as the Blue Jays were shedding salaries.  He sent Lance Painter, Alberto Castillo and minor leaguer Mark DeWitt up north.  Hentgen won 15 games in his only Cardinals season, 2000.

 

Four days later, the Cardinals blockbuster of that off-season was announced, as Darryl Kile, Dave Veres and Luther Hackman became Cardinals.  The Colorado Rockies received Manny Aybar, Brett Butler, Rick Croushore and Jose Jimenez in return.  We all know how that one turned out, too.

 

December 14, 2000 – Steve Kline and Dustin Hermanson join the Cardinals from the Montreal Expos in return for Fernando Tatis and Britt Reames.

 

At the time, it felt like a strange trade, even a bad one, perhaps.  Tatis was an acknowledged slugger seemingly coming into his prime and already signed to a long-term deal.  In April 1999, Tatis became the only player in the history of the game to smack two grand slams in the same inning.  However, we all know what Kline has meant to the Cards in the four seasons since and Hermanson delivered a 14-13, 4.45 ERA in the 2001 season.  Tatis floundered badly after leaving St. Louis and his career seems to be over.

 

December 15, 2001 – Dustin Hermanson was traded to the Boston Red Sox for three prospects, Dustin Brisson, Luis Garcia and Rick Asadoorian. 

 

OK, not a blockbuster.  And, the fact that none of the three prospects received made it to the bigs is not all that bad.  Hermanson and his $6.5 million guaranteed 2002 contract was dispatched to make room for others.  As much as I would like to fool myself into believing the money was used for Jason Isringhausen, the truth is that Izzy had been signed the month before.  The Hermanson savings was instead used to ink free agent first baseman Tino Martinez.  Not one of Walt’s best moments.

 

December 15, 2002 – Brett Tomko joins the Cardinals in a trade with the San Diego Padres for reliever Luther Hackman and a player to be named later.

 

Jocketty was hailed for adding a proven starter without having to break up his core of position players as was thought to be required.  Tomko surely had his ups and downs during his one season wearing the birds on the bat, but did manage to win 13 games.  And yes, upon joining the Cardinals, Tomko was arbitration-eligible, undoubtedly easing the deal.

 

December 13, 2003 – Jason Marquis, Ray King and Adam Wainwright join the Cardinals from the Atlanta Braves in return for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero.

 

While Drew had a standout campaign for the Braves in 2004, the Cardinals’ offense got along just fine without him.  Marquis’ 15 wins and King’s 62 appearances with a 2.61 ERA were crucial elements of the Cardinals’ National League championship mix.  King allowed just one home run all season in 86 appearances.  Plus, with the money saved, Jocketty also signed Reggie Sanders and Jeff Suppan.

 

Trades, not Free Agency

In a final attempt to use the past to predict the future as well as to point out that chasing name brand free agents like Martinez or Milton won’t be the solution, I offer the following.

 

In my research for this story, I ran across multiple examples of the “kick the tires of the new cars, but eventually trade for the used one, instead” strategy that Jocketty has employed consistently and effectively over the years.  Here are but three of the many from past seasons.  Note their timing, just prior to major trades.

 

From AP on signing Greg Maddux, December 12, 2003:

"I don't know," Jocketty said. "It's certainly more money than we have available. But they also, they could be creative with how it would be structured. It would probably be pretty tough."

 

From ESPN’s Peter Gammons on November 2, 2000:

Q:  Can the Cardinals afford to get in on (free agent pitchers Mike) Mussina and Mike Hampton?

A:  "Maybe," says GM Walt Jocketty. "It's something we have to sit down and assess, because our payroll obligations for next season are high."

 

From CNN/SI on December 2, 1998:

Cards wonder if pockets deep enough to sign Padres ace

 

The St. Louis Cardinals are prepared to make a bid for free agent pitcher Kevin Brown, but general manager Walt Jocketty isn't sure he can meet Brown's lofty asking price.

 

Jocketty said Tuesday that the team has yet to make an offer for Brown, who went 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA last season for San Diego. Brown's agent, Scott Boras, says his client has two six-year offers on the table and wants to start the bidding at $75 million.

 

Jocketty said it would be "pretty tough" for the Cardinals to go past a five-year deal but he still remains hopeful. He doesn't expect any deal to be reached before next week's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

 

"They're not going to do anything without talking to us," Jocketty said. "We'll see if we can pull off a miracle in the next few weeks."

 

Finally, the photo caption with the story says:  “If the Cardinals lose the Kevin Brown sweepstakes, management might trade with the Diamondbacks for a starter.” 

 

Perhaps the past can help predict the future! 

 

5:56 am est

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Tuesday Edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Ankiel Picks Up First P.R. Win

On Sunday, Rick Ankiel pitched a five-hit, seven-inning shutout for Carolina in the Puerto Rican league.  The complete game win was in the first of a doubleheader.  One one hand, Ankiel fanned seven and walked none and allowed just one extra base hit.  On the other, he hit two more batters and uncorked a wild pitch.

 

King Strong Supporter of Drug Testing

I really like this guy and now, even more.  From the San Francisco Chronicle:  "If it takes putting Bud, Don (Fehr, union chief) and doctors in a room, locking 'em up and not letting 'em out until they get something resolved, I'm all for it."

 

“I can only speak for myself. I'm willing, if they want to come knocking on my door, to be tested. Give me the cup. I enjoy playing the game, and I'm open to whatever we need to do to put a bright spot back on baseball.”

 

Lots more here.  Read it:  http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/12/07/MNGSCA7P771.DTL

 

Ledee Signs in L.A.

Outfielder Ricky Ledee agreed to terms on a two-year, $2.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The only reason it is noted here is due to its size.  We’re talking about a million and a quarter for a journeyman fourth outfielder here.  Ledee is coming off a .233 2004 campaign, is a career .242 hitter and has never had 260 at-bats in a season.  He’s joining his sixth team in five years.  Guys like John Mabry have to feel good when they see deals like this.

 

Gammons on Clement

ESPN’s Peter Gammons calls the Dodgers and the Cardinals the leaders in signing Cubs free agent Matt Clement, with a deal possible at the upcoming winter meetings.  However, later reports say that the Cubs will offer Clement arbitration.  It is unknown at this time if Clement would decline.

 

Renteria to Reunite with Vina?

There are rumors that the Detroit Tigers may make a run at Edgar Renteria, as general manager Dave Dombrowski knows Edgar well from their time together in Florida.  The Tigers have been willing to overpay for free agents they desire.  The story goes on to say that incumbent Carlos Guillen would move to third to make room for Edgar.  Free agent third baseman Troy Glaus reportedly already has a Tigers offer on the table, though, so something would have to give.

 

Riggleman Returns to Red

Jim Riggleman was named Cardinals minor league field coordinator, replacing Jim Humphreys, who is retiring after the season.  Riggleman registered a .472 winning percentage in eight seasons as manager of the Padres and Cubs in the 90’s.  Prior to that, he was Cardinals player development director and first base coach under Whitey Herzog.  It had been expected for some time that Riggo would not be returning to the Dodgers, where he was their bench coach for the last four seasons.

 

Four Minor League Deals

Baseball America reported that the Cardinals have signed four players to minor league contracts.  They are outfielder Brandon Berger, first baseman Bo Robinson and right handed pitchers Chuck Bechtel and Toby Borland.  The Cardinals also placed right handed pitcher Shane Reedy on the restricted list.

 

Cubs Add ex-Cards Trainer

The Cubs hired Mark O'Neal as their new head athletic trainer. He was previously the Cardinals’ assistant athletic trainer.  O'Neal had worked in the Cardinals organization for 15 years, including five years as medical and rehabilitation coordinator at the major league level.

 

9:33 pm est

Jocketty’s Arbitration Record

 

With the December 7 deadline for offering arbitration upon us, it is an especially-appropriate time to look back over recent arbitration history.  As the table below shows, the number of players filing for arbitration has declined four consecutive seasons from a peak of 102 back in 2001.

 

An important design point of the arbitration process is to provide the time and opportunity for the two parties to come to agreement prior to the actual hearing.  The numbers show that hearing avoidance is successful 89% of the time, which is pretty effective.

 

However, owners need not be overly concerned from a financial perspective if they have to go to the hearing.  Over the past ten years, ownership’s offer has been accepted by the arbitrator just short of 2/3 of the time.

 

MLB Arbitration Summary – 1995 through 2004

Year

# Players Filed

# Hearings Held

Player Wins

Team Wins

1995

61

8

2

6

1996

76

10

7

3

1997

80

5

1

4

1998

81

8

3

5

1999

62

11

2

9

2000

90

10

4

6

2001

102

14

6

8

2002

93

5

1

4

2003

72

7

2

5

2004

65

7

3

4

10-Year Totals

782

85 = 11%

31 = 36%

54 = 64%

 

A ten-year analysis is an optimal period for another reason, as that coincides with Walt Jocketty’s reign as the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

It doesn’t take long looking at the Cardinals’ subset of the arbitration data to draw a few conclusions.  First, the Cardinals actually have had a slightly-higher percentage of arbitration filers than the average club, with 32 filers of the 782 total.  The MLB team average is 26 filers over the ten years.

 

However, in the past three years, the number of Cardinals filings has declined even more dramatically than MLB overall, totaling just four.  That three-year sum is less than either of the two years prior, 2000 and 2001, when five players filed each season.

 

Of course, the most telling statistic can be seen to the right of the exhibit below.  In his decade-long tenure as the Cardinals’ general manager, Walt Jocketty has had to actually go to the arbitration hearing with just one player.  That was former starting pitcher Darren Oliver back in 1999, a case which the Cardinals won.  During that same period, the average MLB team had three hearings.

 

What does this tell us?  While the Cardinals have had more than their fair share of arbitration filers, for the players he wants to keep, Jocketty does a better job than most in settling prior to a potentially-distracting and contentious arbitration hearing.  In fact, his actions would imply he is arbitration hearing-averse, which is how the system is supposed to work, anyway.

 

 

St. Louis Cardinals Arbitration Summary – 1995 through 2004

Year

Players Filed - # / Name

# Hearings Held

Player Wins

Team Wins

1995

5 / Cooper, Hill, Lankford, Rodriguez, Zeile

0

0

0

1996

5 / Clayton, Fossas, Lankford, Osborne, Stottlemyre

0

0

0

1997

3 / Clayton, Osborne, Painter

0

0

0

1998

2 / Clayton, Mabry

0

0

0

1999

3 / Botallico, Oliver, Renteria

1 / Oliver

0

1

2000

5 / Al. Benes, Bottenfield, Mohler, Morris, Renteria

0

0

0

2001

5 / Al. Benes, Christianson, James, Morris, Paquette

0

0

0

2002

1 / Polanco

0

0

0

2003

2 / Drew, Tomko

0

0

0

2004

1 / Pujols

0

0

0

10-Year Totals

32

1 = 3%

0 = 0%

1 = 100%

 

Another interesting factoid is that along with pitchers, Cardinals middle infielders seem to be more inclined to file than the norm.  For seven straight years, from 1996 through 2001, there was one Cardinal middle infielder among the team’s filers.

 

Specifically, Edgar Renteria is not afraid of filing, having done so prior to both the 1999 and 2000 seasons.  Those were his first two seasons of eligibility, having been a Super Two in 1998-1999.  Renteria joined the Cardinals in a trade with the Florida Marlins in December, 1998. 

 

Fear on the part of the Marlins of Renteria getting a large salary increase in arbitration was a factor in Jocketty being able to pull off that deal.  That is an important factor to keep in mind over the upcoming days and weeks.  Players offered arbitration from budget-conscious teams are prime trade targets.  Their teams don’t want to pay them, but they also can’t afford to lose them.  So, the best way out is to offer arbitration, then trade the player.  The receiving team has to assess their ability to sign the player before the hearing or be willing to risk being held liable for the arbitration award.

 

This motivation is often overlooked as the press tries to forecast potential trades and signings.  Tomorrow, I’ll look at some of Walt Jocketty’s deals during the Winter Meetings, a number of which were facilitated by the availability of other teams’ arbitration-eligible players.

 

But, before I go, I want to look back.  A month ago, in two articles, “Free Agency Made Simple(r?)” and “Three to Six Year Free Agents” elsewhere on this site, I predicted the following with regard to the Cardinals and their eligible players being offered arbitration.  I might alter a few of these today, but here they are for reference. 

 

Arbitration Predictions – 11/04

To be offered arbitration

Not to be offered arbitration

Six-year free agents

Matheny

Morris

 

Renteria

Kline

 

 

Mabry

 

 

Womack

 

 

Lankford

Three-to-five year eligible

King

Lincoln

 

Marquis

 

 

Reyes

 

“Super two”

Ankiel

 

 

There is always a chance that one or more will sign before the Tuesday night deadline or have a pre-agreement that the player will not exercise their right to arbitration when offered.  This occurs when both sides want to come to terms, but need more time to work out the deal.

 

A very knowledgeable reader came in with this arbitration prediction on Monday:  Mabry, Womack, and Renteria.   Morris will be offered arbitration with the understanding he won't utilize it.   Matheny is tough to call but I predict the Cardinals will sign him.”

 

We shall see soon enough.

 

6:54 am est

Monday, December 6, 2004

Monday Edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

McRae New Hitting Coach

The Post-Dispatch reports that former Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Hal McRae will be named Cardinals hitting coach on Monday.  McRae, 59, has also been a hitting coach with Montreal, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.  Other candidates were Tommy Gregg, Steve Balboni, Gene Tenace, Will Clark and Mark McGwire.  The latter two were not interested.

 

Renteria Update

The Sun-Times repeated a previous rumor that while the Cubs would like Edgar Renteria, they will likely re-sign Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year deal instead.  The Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals presented a revised offer to Renteria’s agent for more than $32 million for four years, heavily backloaded.  However, they have not received a reply.

 

Womack Update

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that while incumbent Todd Walker has a deal on the table, the Cubs are still interested in Tony Womack.  The Post-Dispatch believes that the Cardinals are most likely to offer Womack arbitration of all the Cardinals’ free agents.

 

Cards Budget over $100 Million

Not really.  That is just what Chris De Luca of the Sun-Times said.  Guess he’s trying to shame the Tribune Company to spend more on their Cubbies.  Either that or he’s badly misinformed.

 

Unit Deal “On Life Support”

Says Walt Jocketty in the Post-Dispatch.

 

A Big Week Coming

The Owners Meetings start Friday, traditionally the start of the trading season.  Remember that the J.D. Drew trade was announced last December 13.  Speaking of…

 

Orioles Down on Drew

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles turned down a proposed trade with the Cardinals for outfielder J.D. Drew in 2003.  The reason was a combination of injury concerns and his score in psychological testing.  No word on who the Cardinals were after, but my money is on a second baseman.  It’s not too late, Walt.

 

Former Redbird Batterymates Face Off

Catcher Alberto Castillo singled off lefty Donovan Osborne leading off the seventh inning for the Aguilas Cibaeńas vs. the Escogido Lions on Sunday.  The two were teammates on the 1999 Cardinals.  At 35 years of age, free agent Osborne must still really like to play the game.  He pitched a scoreless inning, turning the ball over to Diamondbacks closer Greg Aquino.  I tuned into the game hoping to see Hector Luna play for the Aguilas, but former Royals and Devil Rays’ shortstop Felix Martinez got the start instead.  No sighting of Julian Tavarez yet.

 

Hutch Comes Up Big

Former Cardinal Chad Hutchinson (2001) threw three touchdown passes in his first start for the Chicago Bears of the NFL in their upset victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

 

Cheap Backup Catcher?

The Colorado Rockies want to rid themselves of catcher Charles Johnson so badly that they will reportedly pay $8.25 million of his $9 million salary.  Complicating matters is the $1 million bonus due if CJ is traded.  But, still, isn’t he worth $1.75 million?

 

Rockies Interested in Mabry

According to the Denver Post, after apparently losing out on outfielder David Dellucci, the Rockies have “turned their attention” to John Mabry.  “I have gotten to know (Mabry) over the years basically from talking to him about wearing us out," said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle of Mabry, the first player to hit for the cycle at Coors Field in 1996.

 

MLB Minimum Salary to Increase

Starting next season, the lowest amount any player can make is going up to $312,000.  It had been $300,000 the past few seasons.  It remains to be seen if the Cardinals will have many players on the 25-man roster inexperienced enough to make that little, however.

 

7:17 am est

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Matheny’s Last Stand?

 

Tuesday, December 7 is a very important day for major league free-agents such as Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny.  If the player has not agreed to a new deal by then, the team must declare whether or not it will offer arbitration.  To decide which way to go, the team will make a value assessment as to what the player might make for a one-year contract as decided by an arbitrator. 

 

Unless they fear the arbitration award would be incredibly high, the team may offer arbitration.  It also assures them of receiving a compensatory draft pick if the player ends up signing elsewhere.  However, if the team is fearful of losing an arbitration hearing and having to pay more than they want for the player, they may decline to offer arbitration, or threaten to do so.

 

In the days leading up to December 7, teams have been known to make pre-qualifying offers with a threat to not offer arbitration in an attempt to get the player to sign quickly.  This strategy is most effective when a team knows the player wants to come back more than he does to test the free agent market.

 

Going forward, if no early deal is signed and arbitration is offered, then the ball is back in the player’s court.  The player has until December 19 to decide on one of two actions.  He can either accept the arbitration offer or take his chances on the free agent market.  However, if the player takes the latter route, unless he signs by January 8, it precludes him from returning to his current team until after May 1.

 

But, let’s get back to the here and now.  The situation described two paragraphs ahead of this one may best reflect the situation that is facing Matheny this weekend.  Mike has made it clear that he wants to remain a Cardinal, but dismissed an earlier one-year offer from the team.  The team knows he prefers to come back and want him to sign now.

 

I have it on good authority that the Cardinals have increased their offer to Matheny from one to two years, but to-date have stopped short of the three years that Matheny desires.  Perhaps they are also using Matheny’s allegiance to the team against him by threatening to non-tender him unless he accepts their deal.  I am confident of the existence of the two-year deal, but am only speculating about the threat, whether stated or implied by the team. 

 

One can easily envision several scenarios that would explain Walt Jocketty’s motivation to resolve the situation with Matheny quickly.  Even though Jocketty could conceivably have until January 8 to still sign Matheny, he may not be able to wait that long.  The existence of the two-year offer also signals that the team prefers not to go do arbitration.

 

What else may be implied by Matheny’s two-year offer?  It certainly adds credence to the line of thinking that the rumblings of interest by Arizona in catcher Yadier Molina may be real and are being strongly considered by the Cardinals. 

 

The other rumored potential trade partner of the Cardinals, the Oakland A’s, already have a healthy stash of catchers and catching prospects.  But, don’t necessarily count them out.  A’s general manager Billy Beane has been known to make three-way deals or acquire players to enable him to move others.

 

As a result of all this, the chances have improved that the two sides can come to agreement before Tuesday, enabling Matheny to remain a Cardinal for at least two more seasons.  But, it may all hinge on Matheny and Jocketty seeing eye-to-eye between now and Tuesday night. 

3:00 pm est

Saturday, December 4, 2004

Tavarez to Start in D.R.

 

Cardinals right-handed pitcher Julian Tavarez has come to terms and is preparing to join Hector Luna on the Aguilas Cibaeńas of the Dominican Republic League.  In fact, Tavarez has some name-brand company.  Starters Claudio Vargas of Washington and free-agent Jose Lima will join the team this week.  Lima came via a trade with the Escogido Lions for outfielder Raul Mondesi.

 

Scheduled to join the Aguilas along with Tavarez during the third week in December are starters Bartolo Colon of Anaheim and Miguel Batista of Toronto.  Batista also was part of a trade, coming from the Lions in return for catcher Miguel Olivo.  With that, the first place Aguilas will have a rotation that most major league managers would envy. 

 

That rotation includes Tavarez, who is being billed as a starter.  That role is not foreign to him.  In the majors, Tavarez has started 79 games, including 27 for the Florida Marlins in 2002.  However, there is no indication that his role as the right-handed set-up man in St. Louis will change in 2005.

 

The rich get richer as shortstop Miguel Tejada of Baltimore and free-agent third baseman Tony Batista will hop on board the Aguilas train for the final week of the regular season in anticipation of the playoffs and the Caribbean Series in January. 

 

With Tejada in the lineup, Luna’s playing time should shrivel up.  In 45 at-bats, Luna is hitting .244 with a .320 on-base percentage.  He has ten strikeouts and eleven hits, a single RBI and one stolen base.

 

Not that the Aguilas are in need of all this firepower, at least in their home country.  After all, they enjoy a 23-10 record, a full five games ahead of the Cibao Giants and six games up on perennial powerhouse and defending champion Licey Tigers.

11:24 pm est

Friday, December 3, 2004

Friday Edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Strauss Says Hudson

Joe Strauss of the P-D says that Walt Jocketty has approached Oakland about Tim Hudson.  He is allegedly willing to part with Jeff Suppan and catcher Daric Barton, but not Rick Ankiel or Dan Haren.  Interesting, since the Oakland system is full of catching prospects and they just traded for Jason Kendall.  I wouldn’t think Barton would be high on their list, anyway.  Strauss noted that Yadier Molina has “attracted the Diamondbacks’ attention”.

 

Sosa on ‘Roids, too?

Newsday implicates Sammy Sosa as a steroid user with no hard evidence, pointing to the Mets’ interest in him cooling.  Not pretty.

 

Cards Juice up Ticket Prices

And they will do so again in the new park in 2006.  http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/F4A390BB077D903D86256F5F0021331B?OpenDocument&Headline=Cards+raise+prices+for+most+tickets

 

Dodgers Interested in Matheny

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports LA Dodgers’ general manager Paul DiPodesta is interested in free agent catcher Mike Matheny, though no offer has been made yet, according to Matheny’s agent.  The agent, John Boggs, called the Dodgers “a great fit”.

 

La Russa Returning to Chitown

Just for a day.  Tony La Russa will return to support his first major league managerial stop on January 15 as he appears at SoxFest 2005 for the Chicago White Sox.  La Russa will sign autographs and participate in an informational seminar.  The White Sox request a $5 donation for each autograph he signs, which will benefit his Animal Rescue Foundation.  

 

Vizcaino Returning to Astros

Shortstop Jose Vizcaino agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million deal to rejoin the Houston Astros in 2005.  He appeared in 138 games after starter Adam Everett went down with a season-ending injury.

 

11:51 pm est

Free Agent Forecasting Contest

The Votes are In!

 

Now that the December 1 deadline has passed and all entries have been received, it is time to report back on our Cardinals Free Agent Forecasting Contest.  Some very interesting strategies have been employed, along with what seems to be some really good guesses and some real stretches added in for good measure.

 

For those unfamiliar with the contest, Birdhouse readers were given the opportunity to forecast with which teams the nine Cardinals free agents would end up.  The contest ends on March 1 or sooner if all nine players are placed.

 

The reader with the most correct answers will receive a copy of well-known author and Birdhouse contributing writer Rob Rains’ book, Cardinal Nation, the 2nd Edition.  Second prize will be two “Go Cards” Rally Bands.

 

Most creative strategy:  Reader David Sueme assumes that each of the nine free agents will be returning to the Cardinals, reasoning that the odds were most in favor of that versus trying to guess which other of the 29 teams may sign a given player.  Sueme warily told me, “I expected to have to defend myself against a charge of simplistic thinking.”  Almost sounds legalistic, doesn’t it?  While his approach is simplistic, I admire Sueme’s desire to win.  However, if the past is any indication of the future, this strategy may fail.  After all, last off-season, 12 of the 16 Cardinals free agents did not return.

 

Most pessimistic view:  Matthew Amos sees bags being packed with eight of the nine leaving the Cardinals for greener pastures elsewhere.  Only John Mabry is coming back in Amos’ prediction.  The others are scattered to the winds, with no two players going to the same team.  As a result, Amos had the second highest tiebreaker – number of other teams’ free agents signed by the Cardinals - at seven.

 

Most likely staying:  John Mabry returning to the Cardinals is something most everyone agrees about.  Apparently, you readers think Mabry has a good thing going in St. Louis and will hold onto it.  Only Scott Tomsu sees Mabry going elsewhere; back to the Bay area, but to the San Francisco Giants this time.

 

Highest odds prediction:  After Mabry, it was a tie between Steve Kline and Ray Lankford.  Only three people were not in agreement as to the specific fates of these two players.  Kline is seen by a vast majority as a New York Yankee next season, while Lankford is expected to be starting his second retirement.  I was one of the small minority who thought Ray might hook on somewhere for at least a spring training invite.  After all, the man seems to need money for child support.  I chose Tampa Bay simply because that has been a prime pre-retirement location for any number of major leaguers, ex-Cardinals included.  Odds are that I am wrong.

 

Most likely gone:  Only three readers see Matt Morris returning to the Cardinals in 2005.  Less clear is exactly where Morris is going, with readers guessing he may be a member of one of nine different teams.  Morris’ possible destinations include the Marlins, Phillies, Reds, Mets, Dodgers and Nationals in the National League.  Also mentioned were the Yankees, Orioles and Angels in the American League.  The most common thread seems to be the east coast. 

 

Most teams mentioned:  After Morris, it was Mike Matheny with eight different teams besides the Redbirds named.  While a majority of the voters still see Matheny as a Cardinal next season, those who think he is leaving are totally divided as to his destination.  In the NL, the Dodgers, Mets, Marlins and Diamondbacks were called out.  Possible AL stops are Oakland, Toronto, Seattle and Texas. 

 

Tiebreaker:  The average number of free agents from other teams that the Cardinals are expected to sign range from a low of one to a high of eight.  The average is 3.75, rounded up to four.

 

Other Cardinals free agents not mentioned above:

 

Cal Eldred:  Most see him coming back to the Cardinals, with a return to the Brewers next most likely.  Two readers see him unsigned/retired.

 

Edgar Renteria:  The Cardinals’ most eligible batchelor, er free agent, is expected to return to the Redbirds by just under half the respondents.  Most of the rest see Edgar as a Chicago Cub next season, with a handful of votes for the Angels.  Only Ray Mileur selected Boston. 

 

Woody Williams:  There was no majority winner here, either, but Houston received the most votes, followed closely by the Cardinals.  Surprisingly to me, there were many other guesses, including multiple votes for Arizona and the Texas Rangers.  San Diego and Cleveland each got a mention.

 

Tony Womack:  A majority see Womack being a Chicago Cub again in 2005, with the Cardinals picking up the remainder of the votes.  Only one reader differed, putting Tony down in the land of the Tomahawk Chop, Atlanta.

 

As a few of the players actually get signed (or re-signed), I will provide an update on how the contestants are doing.  Again, thank you for your entries and best of luck to all!

 

3:53 pm est

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Thursday Edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Pujols Better Be Better

According to MLB.com, Albert Pujols’ plantar faciitis in his heel has been treated by high frequency soundwaves.  As a result, surgery may be unnecessary.  I sure hope so, otherwise the start of the season would seem to be a risk despite what the experts say.

 

Nomar Returning for More?

In the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry acknowledges contact with Edgar Renteria’s agent, but reiterated that his No. 1 target remains resigning Nomar Garciaparra.  The Sun-Times reports that Hendry is meeting with Nomar’s agent in earnest, trying to get a deal done before the 7th.

 

Polanco Flirtation

MLB.com reports that the Cardinals and free-agent second baseman Placido Polanco have expressed mutual interest, according to Polanco’s agent, Adam Katz.  Katz correctly points out that Polanco is a “front-line player”, without identifying how much front-line money is required to sign his client.

 

Another Wants to be a Cardinal

The longest-tenured Philadelphia Phillie, catcher Mike Lieberthal, might be traded.  The Cardinals were one of the four teams he mentioned by name to the Philadelphia Inquirer that would meet his criteria as a team “that can win”.  He makes $7.5 million this year and next and will be 33 in January.  Pass.

 

Kliner to Beantown?

The Boston Globe calls Steve Kline “one of the most desirable targets” of the Red Sox this off-season.

 

Cal at Altitude?

The Denver Post reports the Colorado Rockies “are showing strong interest” in Cal Eldred and mention John Mabry as a possible addition.  Former Cardinal Mike Gallego (1996-97) is a candidate for the third base coaching job there.

 

Drew Bucks Big

Former Cardinal outfielder J.D. Drew is looking for a four or five year deal at $10 million or more per year, his agent, Scott Boras, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  My money is on Drew becoming second prize in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes.  Speaking of Beltran…

 

Other Beltran Signs

Former Cardinal lefty reliever Rigo Beltran (1997) signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and received a spring training invite.  In 2004, the 35-year-old Mexican pitched for Montreal, getting into only two games in April and spent the majority of the year with Triple-A Edmonton.

 

Coolbaugh Contract

Former Redbird third baseman Mike Coolbaugh (2002) re-signed with the Houston Astros and was invited to spring training.  Since playing for Memphis for most of 2002, Coolbaugh worked in Double-A and Triple-A for the Astros.  He slammed 30 homers for New Orleans last season.

 

Nunnally Still at it

Another former Redbird farmhand, 33-year-old Jon Nunnally (2002-03), re-signed a minor-league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was returned to Triple-A Indianapolis.

 

11:55 pm est

The Pitch on Pitching

 

It’s time to report some more rumors and some speculation about Cardinals pitching, 2005 style.

 

Zito Offer Made

I have it from a very good source that the Cardinals recently made a firm proposal to the Oakland A’s for Barry Zito offering a package including Jason Marquis. 

 

However, at this point, it is unclear whether the A’s want to move another starter, now that they dumped Mark Redman’s contract (and reliever Arthur Rhodes’ too) on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Jason Kendall deal.  Yet, the inclusion of Marquis would afford the A’s a less-expensive rotation replacement for Zito. 

 

The feeling is that Dave Duncan could tinker with Zito and return him to past glory after a difficult 2004.  Zito, 26, had a disappointing 11-11 record with an alarming 4.48 ERA, over a run worse than his previous career low point. 

 

The lefty is signed for 2005 at $4.8 million and currently has four years, 72 days of MLB service time.  As a result, Zito could be kept for two more seasons.  In comparison, his teammate Tim Hudson will be a free agent after the 2005 season, perhaps making Zito a more attractive target financially.

 

On Haren and Ankiel

Are they in the rotation mix for 2005 or aren’t they?  What are the possible motivations of those making the flip-flop statements?

 

Back on November 10, I was critical of a Post-Dispatch story by Joe Strauss that reported that Dan Haren and Rick Ankiel were slated for the bullpen.  My assumption was that Strauss was short of common sense.  But, looking back and thinking about it more, it became clearer that there may have been method behind the madness.

 

The lack of confidence by Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan in young players is generally accepted, though certainly not acknowledged by either.  As I highlighted in my Monday story, “La Russa Return Stuck on Pitching?”, Duncan and La Russa are pleading for two power arms to be added to the rotation.

 

Some apparently misinformed folks had already penciled Ankiel and Haren into those two rotation spots, vacated by Matt Morris and Woody Williams.  That would seem to be the furthest thing from Duncan’s and La Russa’s minds.  After all, Ankiel and Haren’s aspirations are squarely in the way of the two shiny, new starters the bosses want for Christmas. 

 

As much as they might want to, Duncan and La Russa can’t directly get rid of Ankiel and Haren via trade.  After all, neither is the general manager, though their tenure and stature does provide them far more than the usual level of input on such matters.  But, the fact is, Walt Jocketty has made it clear that he wants to keep both young pitchers. 

 

So, given that, what’s the best way for Duncan and La Russa to keep two rotation spots open and to keep the pressure on Jocketty to get those studs?  How about exiling the two youthful contenders to the pen three months prior to the first pitch of spring training?  That should do it quite nicely.

 

Now, the strategy may have backfired somewhat, in that Haren’s perceived value could have taken a hit.  After all, if the Cards have so little confidence in him to commit him to relief during the off-season, wouldn’t that put a doubt in some other teams’ minds who might consider acquiring him, too?

 

Perhaps it is all a moot point now, anyway.  Last week, a subsequent story by Strauss called out Haren and Ankiel as “potential starters”.  It was not directly stated who reversed field and finally recognized what seemed quite obvious to the rest of us for weeks, if not months.  But, by its location in the story, one might assume that it was Jocketty who acknowledged the possibility.  It only makes sense, as he made it clear that “it may not be possible” to get those two stud starters his manager and pitching coach want so badly.

 

Rick Hummel’s Tuesday story about Matt Morris’ shoulder surgery provided more clues. “"The Cardinals have shown interest," Morris said.  "Walt (Jocketty) has been great about it - if I get my shoulder 'scoped and cleaned up.  If I didn't get the surgery, I don't know how interested the Cardinals would be."  Jocketty recently expressed his admiration for Morris…”  Neither Duncan nor La Russa was quoted in the story, welcoming the prospect of Morris’ return.

 

So, are Duncan and La Russa using the two youngsters as pawns to try to score a pair of kings?  Is Jocketty deftly making counter-moves?   It’s not that far-fetched, is it?

7:51 am est

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Wednesday Edition

Walton’s Wanderings

 

Unit Trade for Three Pitchers Won’t Go Away

The same old discredited rumor rehashed one more time, this time by MLB.com.  http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/mlb/news/mlb_perspectives.jsp?ymd=20041129&content_id=916710&vkey=perspectives&fext=.jsp

 

RJ to NYY

ESPN Insider reports a Randy Johnson trade to the New York Yankees will be announced next week.

 

RJ Not to NYY

Another ESPN insider with a name, Jayson Stark, reports the Yankees have told the Diamondbacks that they are out of the Johnson sweepstakes.  Go figure.  http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=stark_jayson&id=1936460

 

Morris’ Surgery

Matt Morris’ decision to undergo surgery on his shoulder opens up his possible return to St. Louis for a small base salary with incentives, not unlike Chris Carpenter’s original deal.  Morris seems to really prefer staying, so it remains a possibility.  But, why didn’t he have the surgery right after the playoffs?  Maybe because he knew any team would expect a medical exam?  If the exam was ok, they would not pay Morris much or if he failed the exam, word would get out and destroy his value, anyway.  As it is, best case stated is that he will start to throw in February and work up to a reduced pitch count by the start of the season.  Sound like Woody Williams 12 months ago?

 

Cards Series Shares

Says the Boston Globe:  “The Cardinals, who lost the World Series to the Sox, received more than $10.1 million in playoff winnings and voted 51 full shares of $163,379, also the smallest amount since 1997.”  No word on number of partial shares.

 

51 on HOF Ballot

Willie McGee is among those appearing for the first time on Baseball’s Hall of Fame ballot in 2005.  Bruce Sutter is the repeat former Cardinal with the most previous votes.  Lee Smith is the other ex-Redbird eligible.  Voting ends December 31, with winners announced January 4.

 

Price of Pitching Nuts

The Cincinnati Reds (over)paid $8.2 million for two more years of starting pitcher Paul Wilson’s services.  Wilson has a career record of 39-53 with an ERA of 4.71.  Ugh!

 

Closed out of Closer   

With Armando Benitez signing with the Giants, the Cubs were closed out of the free-agent closer market.  A trade or a conversion of Ryan Demspter are the only options that seemingly remain.

 

Home Sweet Clubhouse

Kurt Schlogl, formerly with the Cardinals, has been hired as the visiting clubhouse manager by the Colorado Rockies.

 

Sweet Swingin' Sighting

Former Cardinal outfielder Mark Whiten (1993-94) was named a coach for Spokane in the Texas Rangers system. 

 

11:06 pm est

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