Birds Buzz – March 21

Some old rumors continue to have legs, while other new ones keep popping up. What some players are discussing follows.

This story is about what some players are discussing currently. What are the sources of these rumors? No one really knows. Whether the original vibe came from them, their peers, their agents, managers/coaches, contacts in the front office or some combination of them is completely unknown. In fact, now and then when I am told something, I wonder to myself if the guy isn't just reading the same websites we are.

So, read on with the necessary cautions – not only about the source of the data, but also its timing. In the fast-changing world of rumors, today's scoop is tomorrow's old and unfounded news. Often times, it depends greatly on who you ask and when you ask them. Still, if I didn't think there was something here, this story wouldn't appear.

Given that, let's get started.

Stating what may be obvious to many watchers of the Cardinals, it is believed that those who run the team believe they have too many infielders and especially too many pitchers. Despite all the noise over the winter about the "flat" payroll, some players believe the team still wants to reduce spending.

Any savings might be used simply to reduce the overall payroll or to accommodate a trade or a contract extension. As a result, the right conditions are in place for some dealing to be investigated.

On the pitching side, as has seemingly been the case all winter, the team reportedly prefers to deal Jason Marquis. This would eliminate their logjam with starters. While the Cards seem less interested in moving Jeff Suppan than Marquis, word is they would do it for the right player.

The Diamondbacks are one team that supposedly likes Suppan and has the type of players to offer that might align with the Cardinals' needs. One rumor is that veteran Luis Gonzalez might be the player offered up. In fact, this was first suggested in the press back in October. But without a lot of help, Gonzo's $11.5 million salary is a problem as could be the fact that he can block any trade as a 10/5 man (ten years as a major leaguer and last five with the same team). He is also coming off a serious elbow injury that has limited his throwing and is nearing the end of a long and productive career. The D'backs also have an overly-expensive 2007 option on Gonzo that is not expected to be picked up. Larry Walker redux?

Not surprisingly, the names Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright have reportedly come up in discussions, but word is that the Cards are not interested in trading either of the two young starters. One speculation is that D'backs' top prospect, outfielder Carlos Quentin, may have either been offered or asked for. This would be an intriguing deal, in my opinion, but is probably low odds of happening.

Moving a starter is increasingly possible due to the strong spring showing by Sidney Ponson. He will definitely get the #5 slot in the rotation, but could become the #4 man if needed to replace either Marquis or Suppan. Reyes or Wainwright would then move up into the fifth spot.

In the most talked-about scenario still, the Cards would exile Marquis for an inexpensive, but talented young outfielder. Apparently, the Rangers would still be willing to trade an outfielder (Kevin Mench has been the long-rumored name) and the buzz was that the Reds remained very interested in Marquis, too.

However, that has probably changed with word of the Bronson Arroyo-Wily Mo Pena trade being finalized between the Red Sox and Reds on Monday. Still, even before that news was a whisper that Wily Mo is not viewed as a "La Russa-style" of player. Maybe that is why it was Arroyo and not Marquis traded to Cincinnati. Also, this scenario could be where the Victor Diaz from the Mets rumor came from, as they are another team reportedly looking for arms.

Marquis' hitting prowess is such that the Cards may be trying to move him to an American League team, where they would not have to face him, goes another rumor. I am not sure how much credence I give that one.

This is all impacted by the make-up of the final roster. Word is that Dave Duncan may have wanted to carry three left-handers for the bullpen and 12 pitchers total, while Tony La Russa and Walt Jocketty supposedly want to carry 11 pitchers and one more bench player.

Based on the recent past, Duncan should win this debate handily if it actually occurs. After all the discussions are set aside, here are the facts. In each of the last five years, the Cards have come north with a 12-man staff.

However, on Monday, both lefties fighting for the #3 role, Carmen Cali and Tyler Johnson continued to struggle. As a result, a seven-man pen with five righties seems the leading scenario as of now.

This puts more pressure on all the reserves, including outfielders, as a five-man bench is all that can be carried in this case. More information on this can be referenced in the February 16 story entitled Balancing the Bench.

Assuming Larry Bigbie and Junior Spivey are in the starting line-up (though neither is anywhere near firm yet) and with So Taguchi, Gary Bennett and Scott Spiezio looking solid, the other two bench spots would likely be an outfielder and an infielder. The latter will be decided upon from among Deivi Cruz, Hector Luna and Aaron Miles, while the contenders for the former include John Rodriguez, Skip Schumaker and John Gall.

Brian Daubach is the other player in the mix. Despite having played some corner outfield in his major league past, he has only appeared there for one inning this spring to date. If considered only as a backup to Albert Pujols, Daubach will not make the team.

One other factor to consider. Clearly, La Russa will not come north without one or more lefties on his bench. Daubach and Rodriguez being left-handed hitters and Miles as a switch-hitter increase the odds of at least one of them sticking, especially with fellow lefty Rick Ankiel out of the running due to injury.

Yet, both Rodriguez and Miles, as well as others, might be in trade play. Since the Marlins' projected second base starter Pokey Reese abruptly quit, they have inquired about infielders, concerned that Rule 5'er Dan Uggla may need help. Apparently, one rumor is that Tony La Russa is said to not want to send Hector Luna back to Triple-A so that may present one problem/opportunity. I was told that the Fish have specifically asked about Luna and Miles, but have no idea if the discussions went anywhere. No, Miguel Cabrera's name did not come up in any of my conversations.

On the outfield side, I am told that the Orioles inquired about Rodriguez and who knows? - the Cards might listen. Despite having options on Rodriguez, there may be some doubt that he would be willing to go quietly to Memphis if asked. There is a feeling that the staff thinks that while Rodriquez is a bona-fide major leaguer, his best position is designated hitter. Gall has reportedly been discussed in the same context, but there may be less interest in him elsewhere.

Earlier buzz that Jim Edmonds might be in-play because of salary considerations seems to have quieted down. However, the tie-in between Edmonds' $10 million option for 2007 and Mark Mulder's future has recently appeared in the mainstream press, yet Mulder's agent asserts no discussions with the Cards on a new contract beyond 2006 have occurred. The team's position sounds like a convenient way to simply buy time. Remember that Edmonds has a $3 million buyout for 2007, so the real incremental cost for him next season is a reasonable $7 million. The idea of trading Edmonds, while at the same time trying to strengthen the outfield, makes little sense to me.

On the infield, there has been some surprise over the subpar spring play of Junior Spivey at second base. Among the press, there has been considerable speculation as to whether the Cardinals will check with Jim Bowden in Washington about their dual second basemen Jose Vidro and disgruntled Alfonso Soriano. With the two players' huge salaries, however, the Nats would have to eat a lot of cash to make it work for the Cardinals, making the likelihood of that deal quite low.

That doesn't mean a second base deal couldn't be made with one of the other 28 teams, however. Unlike the outfield, where there is a dependable fallback in So Taguchi, none of the current second base candidates in camp have impressed or have a history in St. Louis to draw upon.

Bottom line, in the next two weeks, the Cardinals may just make some minor deals such as waivers and releases, but do not be surprised if they spin a major trade to provide them salary and/or roster relief, while potentially upgrading one area of the team, likely left field or second base.

At least, that's what some of the guys are talking about.

Footnote: Look for major roster cuts coming, likely on Wednesday.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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