The Sunday Night Hot Stove League Report

Get your baseball fix this winter with the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday Night Hot Stove League Report. A weekly report of offseason transactions, deals, trades and rumors, right here, "In the House" Tonight - A SPECIAL BONUS REPORT from forum member, fpslacker.

Here we go around the horn, with the St. Louis Cardinals Hot Stove Report.

This week we saw, Einar Diaz (C), Al Reyes (RP), John Mabry, (OF,1B,3B,3rd string catcher, beer vendor & all round good guy), all file for free agency as expected.

They join the ranks of teammates who declared free agency on October 27, to include; Mark Grudzielanek (2B), Matt Morris (P), Abraham O. Nunez (3B), Reggie Sanders (LF) and Julian Tavarez (P).

In other news, the Cardinals picked up their option on Jeff Suppan (SP), Wednesday, again as expected.

Suppan, who will be entering his third season with the Cardinals, is coming off a second consecutive season with a career-best 16 wins.

Suppan, 31, won six of his final 10 starts and had a 1.98 ERA over those games. He was 16-10 with a 3.57 ERA this season.

He made one start in the postseason, a no-decision in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

Suppan joins a 2006 rotation, that includes Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder & Jason Marquis.

There is a fifth spot open in the rotation that has yet to be filled. Options could include, the return of Matt Morris for one more season or top prospect, Anthony Reyes.

Of the Cardinals that have announced for free agency, Matt Morris is drawing the most attention, early on. The Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and according to some reports, the New York Mets, have all expressed some interest in Morris and have made contact with his agent, Barry Axelrod.

Axelrod has indicated that there are as many as 20 teams interested in the services of Matt Morris. Don't be surprise to see Morris seek a five year deal, that will seal his fate with St. Louis. Trust me here, the Cardinals aren't going to be giving Morris anything else, other than perhaps, another one year, incentive laden, contract.

The Cardinals maintain that they are still interested in bringing Morris back for another season, but it is unlikely that the Cardinals will allow themselves to get in a bidding war for him.

Morris has made it clear that he has no intention, in giving the Cardinals any home town discount and I don't see the Cardinals wanting to spend big bucks for Morris. I think it's even unlikely that they will offer him arbitration, as they would likely be bound to pay more money for him, than they think he is worth.

Second baseman, Mark Grudzielanek, has indicated that he wants to return to St. Louis and the feeling is mutual. We expect Grudz to be at second when the season starts. To borrow a phrase, in reference to Grudz, "Giter Done".

Abraham Nunez (3B), is a free agent that may draw the interest of a lot of clubs, because of his performance at third base this season. The Cardinals are in a little bind, because while they would like to have Nunez back, his role next season will be as a member of the bench, in a back up role again.

Nunez, naturally will not want to return to the bench after spending most of the season playing everyday, and I can understand that.

The big problem is, Nunez may have proved to a lot of major league general managers, that he is capable of playing full time. That means Nunez may very well move on to what he thinks is 'greener pastures' elsewhere with the bigger contract and the opportunity to play full time. Can you really blame him?

The Cardinals have a couple of holes to fill in the outfield. Larry Walker is retiring and Reggie Sanders, is once again a free agent. That leaves holes in left and right field, if Sanders doesn't return.

Cardinals General Manager, Walt Jocketty really likes, San Diego outfielder, Brian Giles. The Cardinals had considered making a deal for Giles near the trade deadline this season and they will be at least, in the hunt for the popular outfielder.

Giles, has expressed his desire to play in St. Louis, and while Giles may be the most attractive position player-free agent, on the market, that doesn't preclude the Cardinals making a deal for him. Hey, Jocketty brought us Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Mark McGwire and Larry Walker, trust me, Giles is not out of reach.

Other options in left include, the platoon combination of John Rodriguez and So Taguchi, or bringing Reggie Sanders back in left for one or two more seasons.

The Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa has opened the doors for the return of left hander reliever Ray King, who has expressed his frustrations to the media about lack of playing time in the postseason. (He didn't get to play)

It's up to King to step through the door. If he does, that solves a lot of potential problems, in terms of the makeup of the bullpen from the left side and what would you do, if you had to trade King?

Reliever, Al Reyes, is expected to miss most of next season with arm problems. Some reports came in this week, that suggested that the Cardinals think he could be ready to pitch by August. I find that very hard to believe, based on the severity of his elbow injury.

Despite his injury, we expect Reyes to get a contract with the Cardinals for 2006.

This week we will be keeping a close eye on;

Brian Giles, (OF) who's talking to who and just how bad does he want to come to St. Louis?

Julian Tavarez, (RP) how much interest is out there for this reliever? There are some in St. Louis that are ready for him to go.

Reggie Sanders, (LF) who wouldn't want Reggie Sanders on their team? Hopefully the Cardinals will bring him back as a regular for one more season and a back up for another season.

Matt Morris, (SP) 20 teams are interested in at least talking with Morris, if you are ready for Morris to leave St. Louis, this is good news for you. If not, than the writing is on the wall, Morris is gone.

Walt Jocketty, (GM) this is a very shallow free agent market, and Walt may have to make a trade to fill some holes, we'll be keeping our eyes on Walt.

2006 Free Agents, with the 2005 market being so shallow, GMs may be taking a look at the potential free agents for next season, and the trade route for a 2006 free agent, may be the road taken by a GM or two.

 

 

 

BONUS COVERAGE

From our message board this week, the following post, "Offseason Breakdown" by fpslacker (forum member), was the selected as the best post of the week, it is republished here for you.

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There is a lot of talk about what to do with certain areas of our team this offseason, but when you think about it, each decision is dependent of the other. So I figured I would break down who's coming back, at what price, what we need, etc.

Starting Rotation

Chris Carpenter - $5 million
Mark Mulder - $7.75 million
Jeff Suppan - $4 million
Jason Marquis - arbitration eligible
Matt Morris - Type A free agent
Anthony Reyes - around $300K
Reyes will likely take the one spot that would be freed up by letting Matt Morris go or possibly trading Marquis.

Relief Pitchers

Jason Isringhausen - $8.75 million
Randy Flores - around $300K
Ray King - $2.45 million/asked to be traded
Cal Eldred - Type B free agent
Julian Tavarez - Type A free agent
Brad Thompson - around $300K
Tyler Johnson - around $300K
Adam Wainwright - around $300K
Al Reyes - Type A free agent/TJ surgery
Mike Lincoln - free agent/injured


Only three are for sure (Isringhausen, Flores, Thompson). That leaves 2 to 4 spots to be filled depending on how many pitchers we go with and if we trade King. I would expect the Cards to bring back Eldred for somewhere around $1 million. Johnson and Wainwright will probably fight it out for one spot (meaning we won't be paying one of them $300K). If we trade King, that leaves 1 or 2 spots open for free agents.


Starters

Yadier Molina - around $300K
Albert Pujols - $14 million
Mark Grudzielanek - Type A free agent/according to the terms the deal we signed him to, the Cards cannot receive any compensation for him
David Eckstein - $3.25 million
Scott Rolen - $11 million
Larry Walker - Type A free agent/retiring
Jim Edmonds - $12 million
Reggie Sanders - Type B free agent
Abraham Nunez - Type C free agent

Grudzielanek or Nunez will likely be our starter at second. My guess is that Grudz will likely cost somewhere around $3 million or more and Nunez around $1.5 million making Grudz a little too expensive. Tough to figure out what we'll do with the outfield situation. We'll likely bring back Reggie. My guess is that he'll make around $5 million. The other outfield spot could be filled by another free agent (Giles?) or a trade or even a Taguchi/Rodriguez platoon.


Bench

Einar Diaz - No Compensation free agent
Mike Mahoney - around $300K
John Mabry - Type C free agent
So Taguchi - team controls rights/probably will resign for about $700K
Hector Luna - around $300K
John Rodriguez - around $300K
Chris Duncan - around $300K
John Gall - around $300K
Skip Schumaker - around $300K
Scott Seabol - around $300K


Diaz will be let go. Mahoney can't cut it. We'll need to find a backup catcher. This will probably cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $600K. Mabry will probably be back at around $700K. I'm not 100% on the Taguchi situation. I know we still control him and I don't think he is eligible for arbitration but I don't really know the correct term. Luna will be back. I doubt the team will send him to AAA again. If Nunez gets a starting spot, Luna could conceivably get quite a bit of playing time. I think Rodriguez has solidified a spot on the team in 2006. After we get a backup catcher, that leaves possibly one spot (only if we go with 14 batters) for the rest of the crew to fight for.

Assuming the following: Marquis makes $6 million in 2006; Reyes takes a rotation spot; Sanders is resigned for $5M; Nunez starts at second for $1.5M; our backup catcher, Taguchi, Mabry cost $2M; and we take 14 batters to start the season...our payroll will stand at about $85.1 million. This includes Ray King's salary since if he is traded, there is a good chance we would probably sign a free agent near the same price. With a maximum payroll around $95 million, this means we would have about $10 million to spend on one bullpen spot and one outfield spot.

For those who may not agree with all of my assumptions, with just assuming that Marquis will make $6 million in 2006, Reyes takes a starting rotation spot, Taguchi costs $700K, and we have 14 batters...our payroll stands at about $77.3 million. This leaves us about $18 million to spend on two outfield spots, a second baseman, a backup catcher, a bench player, and a bullpen spot.

I'm obviously assuming a lot here in either situation, but I feel the assumptions in the second scenario are fairly safe bets. Let's also not forget that a trade could change these numbers in a heart beat so this is just to give everyone a rough idea.

 

 

Ray Mileur can be reached at raymileur@yahoo.com

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