Renteria's Urban Legends Persist

Brian Walton disputes commonly-accepted "facts" about Edgar Renteria's leaving and Mark Mulder's arrival.

In Sunday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, columnist Bernie Miklasz presented a nice article encouraging Cardinals fans to treat former shortstop Edgar Renteria in a civil manner upon his return to Busch this week as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Without highlighting every one of Renteria's past successes, Bernie correctly painted a picture of a man who meant a lot to his team.

I have no issue with any of that. However, I do take exception with a continuation of the urban myths that have followed Renteria's contract situation in two areas – the amount of the Cardinals' offer versus the Red Sox deal and the resultant impact on the 2005 Cardinals roster.

Starting with the latter point, Miklasz points out that the combined salaries of new Cardinals Mark Mulder, David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek are only slightly more than the amount Renteria is receiving in Boston. That is true. And, at least two months into the season, there is no doubt which is a better value.

However, others, such as Al Hrabosky on FSN Midwest as recently as this past weekend, have twisted that to state flatly that none of those three players would be Cardinals today if Renteria had re-signed with St. Louis. That just can't be. For example, Grudzielanek's $1 million-base deal would have fit nicely into any Cardinals' budget. His signing had everything to do with Tony Womack leaving and nothing to do with Renteria.

However, the next point is the one that drives me completely crazy. It is purely speculation, yet is continually represented as fact. Bernie and Al are not the only members of the press to proclaim that the Cardinals could not have made the trade for Mulder if Renteria had been re-signed.

To the best of my knowledge, that has never been asserted as a certainty by Walt Jocketty or any other member of the Cardinals' brass.

The fact is, no one knows.

Coming into the off-season, it was obvious that Jocketty intended to do both – get a stud starting pitcher and keep Edgar.

From the Post-Dispatch, Jocketty stated his three priorities coming into December's Winter Meetings were: 1) get a front-of-the-rotation starter, 2) find a second baseman and 3) re-sign Renteria.

Would it have been more difficult to have both Renteria and Mulder as the shortstop's price escalated? Yes. Impossible? Clearly not.

Could the Cardinals have included other players in the Mulder deal with Oakland to better balance out salaries? Or, could they have made another deal, such as trading Jeff Suppan, to free up additional salary to make room for Mulder? Or, could they have simply made the decision to increase their 2005 payroll budget? Or, what they likely did, could the Cards beef up Renteria's deal with deferred money, lessening the potential impact in 2005?

Who knows?

Moving on to my second concern - Renteria's salary. Miklasz and others are fond of using simple math in comparing the $40 million that Renteria is receiving from Boston with a supposed offer from the Cardinals for $39 million and calling it a wash.

That is not, nor has it ever been, an apples-to-apples comparison.

Here are the facts. Renteria's Red Sox deal is for four years with an option for a fifth. Renteria received a $4 million signing bonus right then and there, plus is assured of getting $33 million more in salary over the four years. For 2009, Renteria can either be bought out for $3 million (making the total $40 million) or the Red Sox can bring him back for the fifth year for another $11 million.

In summary, Renteria's deal with Boston is assured of being either four years, $40 million or five years, $48 million. Period.

On the other hand, the Cardinals' offer was not nearly as straightforward. It was back-ended, meaning more money in later years and included deferred money. With interest, the deferrals "could have brought the package up to $39 million," quoting the P-D at the time. Implied, but not stated, was that the deal could also have ended up being somewhat less. In addition, there were no reports of any option for a fifth year.

So, there it is. From Boston, a sure $40 million and perhaps $48 million with the potential for an extra year plus the increased value of more money up-front versus a "maybe" $39 million-value later from St. Louis. Bernie says, "I'm not Theo Epstein, but I can do simple math." This must be the graduate course, then.

Now, that doesn't change the fact that Renteria took the money and left the Cardinals at the altar. It doesn't mean that his reported concerns about Albert Pujols' contract weren't ridiculous. It doesn't mean that Renteria's assertion that he was shown a lack of respect by the Cardinals isn't a bunch of bull. It doesn't mean that his recent comments that the Red Sox have the best fans in the game while he was being booed while in the midst of a deep slump weren't self-serving.

Don't get me wrong. In hindsight, I join the vast majority of Cardinals fans who are pleased with how this story has played out. But, what happened in December was not nearly as cut-and-dried as the spin that some try to apply.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at


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