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"

The Sunday Night Hot Stove League Report. This week we are going to break the report down into two separate categories; #1. St. Louis Cardinals who are free agents & #2. Those free agents the Cardinals have expressed an interest in, or free agents that we think, the Cardinals may potentially pursue.


1. St. Louis Cardinals Free Agents

C Einar Diaz - the Cardinals will likely find someone else to back up Yadier Molina behind the plate. Diaz didn't see much playing time, before or after Molina broke his hand. Diaz hit a paltry .208 and the Cardinals will attempt to upgrade at this position.

RP Cal Eldred - has discussed retirement but as of today, he has filed for free agency. Cal is a perfect fit in a St. Louis Cardinals bullpen. He's a cagey veteran and an excellent mentor to the younger members of the bullpen. The veteran was a godsend out of the bullpen this year for the Cardinals, in 31 games, posting a 2.19 ERA and a 1-0 record. Eldred had health problems early in the season and was hospitalized for a time with myopericarditis, a viral infection that causes inflammation around the heart, this experience alone, will contribute to his decision to retire or not.

2B Mark Grudzielanek - the 35 year old second baseman will cost a little more than the $1 million dollars he was paid for last season. Grudzielanek played a Gold Glove, caliber season at second, leading the NL in double plays, and setting a new St. Louis Cardinal record on the way with shortstop, David Eckstein. Mark has indicated that he wants to return to St. Louis and the Cardinals will likely sign him to a two year deal.

OF John Mabry - how many times have you heard the Cardinals say that they made a mistake letting John Mabry leave St. Louis twice before? Mabry, can play third base, first base, left or right field and can catch in an emergency. He was a bargain for $750,000 this season for St. Louis. It would still be a mistake to let him go again.

SP Matt Morris - isn't on the top of anyone's list, but appears to be on almost everyone's list. Morris days in St. Louis are probably numbered. He's indicated that he would like to stay in St. Louis, but he has made it clear that there won't be a home team discount, which will likely contribute to his departure. Cardinals General Manager, Walt Jocketty, says that the Cardinals have not given up on signing Morris. My take is, with teams like the Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Mets & the Mariners interested in Matt, it's highly unlikely that the Cardinals will be able to match any of their offers.

3B Abraham Nunez - deserves a shot to be a everyday player. He played much better than anyone expected in filling in for Scott Rolen at third base this season. It's possible he may get the opportunity to start somewhere else. Nunez could move to second base if the Cardinals fail to sign Grudzielanek. Nunez is a very valuable reserve player who should be part of the Cardinals bench next season.

RP Al Reyes - underwent Tommy John surgery last month, which will force him to most likely miss all of the 2006 season. There has been some reports from inside the organization that Reyes could be back by August, a prediction I consider, very optimistic and unlikely. The Cardinals have expressed interest in retaining him after his recovery, don't expect him back before 2007.

LF Reggie Sanders - the Cardinals need to get this deal done. At this point there hasn't been much talk between the Cardinals and Sanders' camp, but if the Cardinals offer Reggie another two year contract, that should be enough to get him back in a St. Louis uniform. He can still play the game at 37, hitting .271 with 21 home runs and 54 RBI and still has some speed left, stealing 14 bases last season in just 93 games during the regular season. Imagine his numbers, if he hadn't missed two months with a broken leg. He made $4 million dollars in 05, the second year of a $6 million, two year contract.

The Dodgers and Marlins are expected to try to make a deal for Sanders.

RF Larry Walker - has announced he is going to retire. He filed for free agency last week, this may just be an administrative move/action, but I believe it's still possible that Walker could play somewhere else in 06. In my opinion, he would still be an upgrade for many teams in right field, if nothing else, he could DH for some American League team.

RP Julian Tavarez - good bye. Tavarez signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals in January of 2004. Tavarez for $4.2 million: $1.6 million in 2004 and $2.6 million in 2005. I was shocked that the Cardinals gave him this deal in the first place. I don't see them doing it again. In his defense, he has been a very solid setup man for St. Louis, but I would prefer to have someone else in that Cardinal uniform. Tavarez will probably get a better offer than St. Louis will be willing to make for a setup man and that could mean we may have seen the last of Julian. There has been rumors that the Mets may sign him to a deal soon.



2. Potential St. Louis Cardinals?

 RF Brian Giles (Padres) - is the guy the Cardinals would like to get the most for next season. The Cardinals did actually tried to make a deal for the outfielder before the trade deadline this season. Giles, who hit .301 with 15 homers and 83 RBI for San Diego last season and was fourth in the majors with a .423 on-base percentage, would fill the club's stated need for a run-producing bat in right field and in the middle of the batting order. If the Cardinals actually get Giles to sign, it will be sooner than later. Walt Jocketty is not going to let an offer from the Cardinals, be on the table indefinitely. Once the decision on Giles is made, either way, it will set the front office machine in motion to address the other needs of the team.

Signing Giles to play in right, will have a significant impact, in terms of what the Cardinals can do, to sign a second baseman, left-fielder and address the needs of the bullpen.

Giles has turned down two offers from the San Diego Padres. The last offer was reported to be in the area of $3 years for 27 million dollars, an offer the Cardinals would most likely barely match. Other teams considering adding Giles to their roster, includes the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and the Chicago Cubs.

For those who think the Cardinals basically have Giles all wrapped up for next season, need to take into consideration, comments recently made by Giles' agent. "We've had one conversation," says Giles' agent, Joe Bick. "They indicated to us they were very interested in him. We told them they were a team we'd certainly give serious consideration to. But that's been the extent of it." Money in St. Louis is still a major issue. And in the meantime, a bunch of other teams are lined up to pursue Giles, who hasn't ruled out any coast, time zone, league or hemisphere as a potential new place of employment."


OF Jacque Jones (Twins) - is typically the second choice among those teams considering trying to lure outfielder Brian Giles to their team. Walt Jocketty has confirmed earlier that the Cardinals are interested in Jones, but the San Diego Padres may be the front runner for the talented outfielder. The Padres are exploring Jacque Jones as an option in the outfield if they can't re-sign Brian Giles, the San Diego Union-Tribune has reported

"They've got quite a bit of interest," said Jones' agent, Rick Thurman, told the newspaper. "A lot of it depends on Giles. Jacque is interested. San Diego is his home base."

It kind of amazes me the interest Cardinal fans have in Jones. He hit .249 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI last season for the Twins and whoever signs him should consider platooning him as he can't hit lefties much better than my grandmother.

Jones sat out the last game this season for what was probably his last game for the Twins. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, "I asked him if he wanted to go out and play today, and he told me he's worn out mentally, he wouldn't mind sitting back and taking it all in," Gardenhire said.

I'm disturbed about a player saying he's worn out mentally in the final game of the regular season. What if he was required to compete in the playoffs through the World Series? That is what the Cardinals are going to expect from anyone signed to play right field. Traditionally the St. Louis Cardinals don't play just 162 games a season.

The bottom line is, Jones only started 130 games last season and he's worn out?

He's worn out in his final season of a contract, his walk year? Makes me concern about signing him to a multi-year deal, that he will demand. If you are going to do that, let's just go out and bring J.D. Drew back to St. Louis, if we want another part timer in the outfield.


2B Brett Boone - met with St. Louis GM, Walt Jocketty at the general managers' meetings in Indian Wells, Calif., to discuss his desire to play next season.

"As far as teams and where I'm going, that's really the last thing on my mind," Boone told "I'm in a situation where I've never been in my career. I'm just thinking about getting my mind, my swing and my body right to go out there and have the best year I can have."

Boone, 36, made $9 million last year in Seattle. But he said he has no problems signing a contract for a low base salary with incentives. He has to prove himself again after hitting .221 with seven homers in 326 at-bats for the Mariners and Twins last season.

It's possible Boone could get an invitation to spring training, from the Cardinals, but unlikely in my opinion, that he would be given the starting job at second base, outright.


SP A.J. Burnett (Marlins)- for what it's worth, it has been reported in more than one place, that the signing of A.J. Burnett is the top priority for the Cardinals this winter. Excuse me, I just don't see it and I don't really remember Jocketty or anybody else even saying that.

Burnett has been contacted by it looks like 22 of the 30 major league teams, this doesn't bode well for the cost conscious St. Louis Cardinals management and that is good news.

A.J. Burnett is considered one of the elite among free-agent pitchers. His agent has made it known in many circles, that he's looking for a five-year deal. Burnett has a career 49-50 record, only one season with more than 20 starts in the past three years and no season with more than 12 victories. Has everyone lost their minds? This guy is going to be wanting in the range of $40 - $50 million dollars for five years, please somebody else take him.

For the record, Burnett's stats for September and October - 0-4 with a 5.93 ERA, not the stuff to build post season dreams on. The Marlins were in the playoff hunt in September, and when the pressure was on, he wasn't, which was a big reason the Marlin fell short.

With a rotation of Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis to begin with, I don't see the need to spend what it's going to take to bring Burnett to St. Louis. Prospect Anthony Reyes is in the wings waiting for his shot to start in the majors, at least give him a chance.


Coming up - Initial negotiations will continue this week now that the free agent signing period has begun. Many players will wait until the Winter Meetings (Dec. 5-8 in Dallas) to agree to any deals, but the Cardinals may start closing deals for some players very soon.



Ray Mileur can be reached at

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