The Hot Stove League has cooled off some, perhaps I should call it the Warm Stove report.
While the Cardinals remain active exploring opportunities to improve on the team before spring training begins, there is nothing to suggest that there are any deals that will be announced in the immediate future.
Here are some player notes;
SCOTT ROLEN (3B) - The Cardinals are sure that Scott Rolen will be healthy and ready to start the season. They do not share my concern about getting a back up for him. Insiders have made it clear that they have confidence in Deivi Cruz and Hector Luna to be adequate back ups.
JOHN RODRIGUEZ (OF) - Rodriguez ripped the ball in Puerto Rico over the winter, posting a .346 batting average, seven homers, and 28 RBI in only 78 at-bats. Winter leagues aren't exactly known for their pitching, but the numbers Rodriguez put together were impressive nonetheless. With the acquisition of Juan Encarnacion and Larry Bigbie, Rodriguez will be fighting for a 2006 roster spot, trying to earn time in left and right field and as a pinch hitter.
Larry Bigbie is considered the front runner to start in left field, but a slow start in spring training could pave the way for J-Rod to bump Bigbie to the bench.
JASON ISRINGHAUSEN (Closer) - Izzy's 39 saves put him at a tie for fifth place in the National League. Jason's best friend may be Cardinals' Manager Tony La Russa.
Of Isringhausen's 39 saves, 23 of his saves were considered easy saves. Easy, in that he entered the game with the first batter he faces does not at least represent the tying run and pitches for one inning or less.
If there is an "Easy" save there must be a "Tough" one. Jason had only one save last season when he came into a game with the tying run on base.
JASON MARQUIS (SP) - Our sources indicate that it's unlikely that Jason will be signed to a multi-year deal with the Cardinals.
HECTOR LUNA (2B/OF) - Luna has gone from being the man who was expected to start at second base next season to a player who may have a tough time making the roster. To his advantage he's willing to play everywhere. He has struggled recentlyhitting only .223 in the Dominican Republic winter league. Here is another case where I'm surprised that the Cardinals allow their players to play winter ball or in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. My take is, there should be no moonlighting if you are signed to a major league contract.
FELIX RODRIGUEZ (RP) - The Cardinals remain interested in
adding a righthanded reliever to their bullpen, one alternative has been
righthander Felix Rodriguez. Reports out of St. Louis this week indicate that
negotiations for Rodriguez have stalled and his signing is not
WILLIE HARRIS (INF) - The Cardinals had expressed some interest in utility man Willie Harris from Colorado. Contrary to earlier reports, the Rockies have not signed Harris to a contract, the Rocky Mountain News reports. In fact, the team seems unlikely to continue pursing him at all after acquiring Josh Wilson from the Marlins.
The Rockies wanted to sign Harris to be their top utility player but he was seeking more than double the $450,000 the Rockies offered him.
ELI MARRERO (OF) - The Rockies are also on the verge of signing former St. Louis Cardinal, Eli Marrero to a minor league contract, the Rocky Mountain News reports.
The Rockies are waiting for Marrero's agents to approve the structure of a minor league contract that will include major league protection.
Some fans have expressed that they would like to see Marrero return to St. Louis but there hasn't been any indication by the Cardinals that they were interested in signing Marrero to a deal.
CRAIG WILSON (1B/OF) - I had suggested that the Cardinals consider signing Craig Wilson before the Juan Encarnacion deal was announced. This week the Toronto The Blue Jays have some interest in acquiring Wilson. "We've always liked him, but I don't know what his availability is," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said.
The Cardinals did make some inquiries about Craig, but the Pirates have said they're going to hold on to Wilson as a backup despite the fact that he could make more than $4 million in arbitration, a large sum for a team on a small budget.
BRIAN JORDAN (OF) - Former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Brian Jordan signed a minor league contract with Atlanta and was invited to spring training. He's missed most of the last two seasons with chronic knee problems, so it's unlikely he'll win a spot on the roster.
JULIAN TAVAREZ (RP) - The Mets are no longer interested in Tavarez, according to reports in the NY Post. This could be a ploy to get Tavarez to come off his four-year contract demands or the Mets feel that by adding Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez, their bullpen is set. If this is case, Tavarez may try and sign a one-year deal with a team like the Braves and test the market again next season.
I was glad to see Tavarez leave St. Louis, but I was surprised that the Cardinals didn't offer him arbitration.
MIGUEL CAIRO: (UTL) - The former St. Louis Cardinal utility player, Miguel Cairo's $1 million, one-year contract with the Yankees was finalized on Thursday, the AP reports. Cairo, who spent last season with the Mets, hitting .251 with 19 RBI, will back up second baseman Robinson Cano, first baseman Jason Giambi and third baseman Alex Rodriguez. There were never any discussions that we were aware of that the Cardinals were considering signing Cairo.
BRETT BOONE: (2B) - Brett Boone talked with Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty about an opportunity to get a job with St. Louis at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. There was some anticipation that Boone might get a non-roster invitation to spring training to compete for the starting job at second base. That isn't going to happen now, the Mets have signed Boone to a minor-league deal, according to Ed Coleman on WFAN-Radio in New York.
SIDNEY PONSON (SP) - By the numbers: 2 -- Winning seasons Sidney Ponson has had in his eight-year major league career. His overall record is 76-91. The Cardinals are hoping he can turn his career around in St. Louis. He'll most likely start the season as the Cardinals #5 starter.
DOUBLE PLAY GIDP - If the Cardinals had signed A.J. Burnett (26), he would have joined Mark Mulder (32), Jason Marquis (29) and Jeff Suppan (29) and the Cardinals would have had four of the top six pitchers who induced the double play ball last season.
ARRIVALS: RHP Sidney Ponson (free agent from Baltimore), 2B Junior Spivey (free agent from Washington), RF Juan Encarnacion (free agent from Florida), Braden Looper (free agent from New York Mets), 2B Aaron Miles (traded from Colorado), OF Larry Bigbie (traded from Colorado), LHP Ricardo Rincon (free agent from Oakland), C Gary Bennett (free agent from Washington), SS Deivi Cruz (free agent from Washington), RHP Juan Mateo (Rule 5 draft from Chicago Cubs), RHP Dennis Tankersley (minor league free agent from Kansas City), 1B-OF Brian Daubach (minor league free agent from Mets), RHP John Riedling (minor league free agent from Florida).
DEPARTURES: 3B Abraham Nunez (free agent, signed with Philadelphia), RHP Cal Eldred (retired), RF Larry Walker (retired), RHP Matt Morris (free agent, signed with San Francisco), LHP Ray King (traded to Colorado), OF-INF John Mabry (free agent, signed with Chicago Cubs), 2B Mark Grudzielanek (free agent, signed with Kansas City), LF Reggie Sanders (free agent, signed with Kansas City), C Einar Diaz (free agent, signed with Cleveland).