Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/18/11

The St. Louis Cardinals have re-signed shortstop Rafael Furcal to anchor their defense for two more seasons and are looking for an outfielder as well.

INSIDE PITCH

 

Life without Albert Pujols has begun, with the Cardinals apportioning elsewhere at least part of the $21 million or so a year they had planned to pay him if he had re-upped. Shortstop Rafael Furcal was the first beneficiary, receiving a $14 million, two-year deal to return.

The Cardinals might have overpaid for the often injured 34-year-old, but there was little denying Furcal's importance in the world championship run of 2011 after he was acquired from the Dodgers in late July.

"You saw how much better our club was when was on our team," said general manager John Mozeliak. "He really solidified our defense up the middle."

Furcal hasn't played as many as 100 games in either of the last two seasons because of a variety of injuries and wasn't the base-stealing threat he had been in the past, swiping only four in his two months with the Cardinals. But he did display some pop, hitting six home runs in the final two months, five of them against Milwaukee.

Even in the offseason, Furcal had some medical issues, having to undergo an emergency appendectomy. But the switch-hitting Furcal should be ready for spring training.

Ideally, the Cardinals would like Furcal to hit first in the lineup. But he will have to do better than the .298 overall on-base percentage (.316 with the Cardinals) that he compiled last season.

NOTES, QUOTES

INF/OF Skip Schumaker, the regular second baseman the last three seasons, was re-signed to a two-year, $3 million deal with the idea he would be a utilityman. General manager John Mozeliak said that Schumaker, who hit .283 in 2011, likely would be appearing more in the outfield than in the infield as young Daniel Descalso, a reserve infielder last season, will get his first crack at second base.

With OF Allen Craig probably out until May after knee surgery, the Cardinals are in the market for another outfielder although Schumaker could see time there early in the season. The Cardinals initially had targeted their interest in a free agent outfielder to be someone who would be a backup, but GM John Mozeliak, not knowing how long Craig would be out, admitted that "I don't know if we have that option."

Among regular free agent outfielders the Cardinals had interest in was OF Carlos Beltran, now represented by Danny Lozano, with whom the Cardinals dealt with, unsuccessfully as it turned out, in trying to keep free agent 1B Albert Pujols. On the reserve side could be former Cardinals All-Star OF Ryan Ludwick.

If Lance Berkman, ticketed for first base, would have to move back to the outfield with Craig out, the Cardinals might have had interest in longtime Minnesota 1B/3B Michael Cuddyer, but he signed with Colorado.

SS Ryan Theriot, a regular at that position for most of last season, was not tendered a contract. GM John Mozeliak said he didn't envision much playing time for Theriot, a .271 hitter in 2011, with SS Rafael Furcal having been re-signed and INF Tyler Greene liable to be on the team, too.

With reliever Octavio Dotel having signed with Detroit, the Cardinals did offer a contract to reliever Kyle McClellan, who was a candidate not to be tendered. McClellan, who also won five games as a starter in a 12-victory season, provides depth in the rotation besides the bullpen.

LHP J.C. Romero, who was with the Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies last season, signed a one-year deal. He will augment LHP Marc Rzepcynzski in the bullpen.

BY THE NUMBERS: $200,000 - Amount of incentives that could be earned by INF/OF Skip Schumaker, who signed a two-year, $3 million deal.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've got a big hole to fill. It's a new look. It's a new era in Cardinals baseball."

- OF Matt Holliday, after the departure of 1B Albert Pujols.

ROSTER REPORT

 

The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. Now that first baseman Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era.

 

ARRIVAL:

 

LHP J.C. Romero (free agent from Rockies).

 

DEPARTURES:

 

1B Albert Pujols (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers), INF Nick Punto (free agent, signed with Red Sox).

 

BIGGEST NEEDS:

 

The Cardinals would like to find a power bat to replace 1B Albert Pujols.

 

FREE AGENTS:

RHPs Edwin Jackson, OF Corey Patterson, LHP Arthur Rhodes, INF Ryan Theriot.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE:

RHP Kyle McClellan.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Allen Craig (knee surgery) is out until May.

RHP Adam Wainwright is expected to go to Jupiter, Fla., just after Jan. 1 to begin throwing in earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training.


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