Cards Rumor Mill - November 20

Free agent pitching pick-ups upon which the St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to be working.

As I mentioned in the November 17 installment of this series, the Cardinals have been inquiring into a number of free agents as well as working on re-signing several of their own.

 

Here is where my sources tell me the Cardinals stand in the efforts to fill the major holes in the pitching staff for 2007. First, let's start with the incumbents.

 

Cardinals free agents

 

Jeff Weaver

 

Discussions between the Cardinals and Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, are supposedly proceeding very well. Weaver is said to be genuine in his desire to return to St. Louis.

 

Details reportedly being worked on include amount of guaranteed money and sizes of bonuses. Look for a deal to be announced as soon as this coming week unless unforeseen complications arise.

 

Mark Mulder

 

High levels of interest expressed elsewhere in the rehabbing left-hander only reinforce indications that he will not return to the Cardinals. Teams with public contact with Mulder's agent include Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona and probably some others.

 

Jeff Suppan

 

Don't expect anything to happen between Suppan and the Cardinals any time soon, if at all. Like Mulder, there is considerable interest out there and with lots of money being thrown around, Suppan should find a better deal than the Cardinals will offer and will likely take it.

 

Other free agents

 

Look for the Cardinals to close a deal with one of three Texas Rangers' free agents, all 29 years of age next season – perhaps as soon as the Weaver deal is announced. Remember, this would be a mid-to-back of the rotation starter to complement Chris Carpenter, Weaver and Anthony Reyes.

 

Based on the free agent compensation rankings, the Cardinals have no reason to wait to lock up any one of them. Again, as a refresher, the Cardinals would lose no draft picks by signing any Type B, C or non-ranked free agents, which include these three:

 

Adam Eaton, Type C free agent, right-handed pitcher, Texas

 

Eaton is coming into his prime years at age 29 and is the highest profile pitcher of the three. His name has been mentioned in conjunction with Philadelphia, Seattle and others.

 

Eaton posted a decent 54-45, 4.40 career record for a series of good, but not great teams in San Diego and 2006 in Texas. He made $4.65 million last season.

 

With the Padres, Eaton underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2003. The next year, he could never get comfortable with his mechanics, leading the San Diego braintrust to alter his arm angle and drop one of his pitches. He has four pitches, including a 92-97 MPH moving fastball.

 

Eaton was shipped to the Rangers in the Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young trade last winter. His 2006 was scuttled except for 13 starts when he suffered a finger tendon injury during Spring Training and had to undergo surgery. He also missed time during 2005 with a similar problem.

 

In the right place and healthy, Eaton could really surprise. St. Louis could be that locale. Could Dave Duncan work his magic with yet another project?

 

Vicente Padilla, Type B free agent, right-handed pitcher, Texas

 

Here we have another 29-year-old who has been poised for bigger things for several years now. The 2002 All-Star (then with Philadelphia) is known as much for his inconsistency as his 96 MPH fastball, 94 MPH breaking ball, slider and change-up.

 

The native Nicaraguan moved to Texas a year ago and registered the quietest 15 wins anywhere this side of Jason Marquis last season, with a 4.50 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 200 innings. He missed time in 2004 with elbow tendinitis, but otherwise has been a durable starter since 2000.

 

Padilla is representing himself in free agent negotiations and his name has been linked with the Cubs, Mariners and Blue Jays, among others. He earned $4.4 million in 2006.

 

Kip Wells, no compensation required, right-handed pitcher, Texas

 

The 29-year-old endured four tough seasons toiling for the Pirates before moving to the Rangers at the 2006 trade deadline. He made $4.15 million this past season.

 

During 2006, Wells endured shoulder and foot injuries and during last off-season, he had surgery to relieve a blood clot in his shoulder. Together, that limited him to just nine 2006 starts between the two clubs.

 

Interestingly, in August it was reported that the Cardinals almost landed Wells before the Pirates closed the deal with Texas. So, Wells is obviously someone the Cards have been looking at for some time despite a 57-74, 4.46 career mark. 

 

I have been told the two sides are not haggling over money as much as duration of contract. With some promising arms in the minor league pipeline, the Cardinals are apparently not excited about giving three years to a mid-rotation guy like Wells.

 

 

Stay tuned for more rumors from me, HawgWild and our other sources as this most interesting off-season continues for the defending World Champions.

 

 

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

 

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