Insiders - Cards First Foray Into FA Market

After re-signing center fielder Jim Edmonds and utility man Scott Spiezio, the Cardinals finally made their first foray into the free agent market when they signed second baseman Adam Kennedy and right-hander Kip Wells on Nov. 28.

Kennedy's deal three-year deal will pay him $10 million. Wells signed a one-year, $4 million deal. Kennedy will be reunited in the middle infield with shortstop David Eckstein, reforming a duo that helped the Angels win the World Series in 2002. The second baseman broke in with the Cardinals in 1999 before being traded to Anaheim with Kent Bottenfield in exchange for Edmonds. Kennedy batted .273 with four homers and 55 RBIs this year.

Wells split the 2006 season between the Pirates and Rangers and finished 2-5 with a 6.50 ERA. He missed the first half of the year following surgery to correct a blocked artery near his right shoulder, and his season ended early due to a foot injury.

Wells joins a rotation that includes staff ace Chris Carpenter, Anthony Reyes and possibly Adam Wainwright, who wound up as the closer in the postseason. But the Cardinals' financial interest may be more in the second tier of free agent starting pitchers, a group they hope would include postseason mainstays Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver.


--Making sure they are covered behind starting C Yadier Molina, the Cardinals re-signed C Gary Bennett and gave a minor league deal to UT Eli Marrero, who plays catcher, infield and outfield. Bennett hit .223 in 60 games this year in his first season in St. Louis. Marrero split the season between the Rockies and Mets, hitting a combined .204 in 55 games.

--Cardinals manager Tony La Russa spent part of his offseason putting together a letter to send to his team, imploring the players to celebrate their World Series accomplishment and not having to apologize for anything despite having won only 83 games in the regular season.

"I've heard our win called the worst in World Series history," La Russa said. "But our level of play in the postseason was world championship caliber. If you would compare us against the other world champions of the last few years, we'd have a 50-50 chance to win. I think it would be a shame for our guys not to appreciate it."

--RHP Jeff Suppan may get as much as $9 million a year as a free agent. Suppan made a total of $9 million the last three years with the Cardinals.

"There's nothing serious happening right now," said his agent, Scott Leventhal. "We're in a stage right now where we're just keeping in touch."

--Jose Oquendo, who interviewed for the San Diego managerial job but was passed over, said he expects to return to the Cardinals as their third base coach. The interview was Oquendo's first for a managing job.

--Club president Mark Lamping said the club would not raise ticket prices, even after winning the World Series.

BY THE NUMBERS: 44 -- Number of wins by RHP Jeff Suppan in his three seasons with the Cardinals.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew we had something a lot of people hadn't seen." -- SS David Eckstein on the lineup the Cardinals were able to put out for the postseason after surviving some late-season injuries that almost cost them a playoff spot.


Despite being the World Series champions, the Cardinals have many holes to fill for next year, both on the mound and at two or more positions.

ARRIVALS: 2B Adam Kennedy (free agent from Angels), RHP Kip Wells (free agent from Rangers), UT Eli Marrero (minor league free agent from Mets).


BIGGEST NEEDS: The Cards need starting pitchers to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter and Anthony Reyes, the only two they control, other than RHP Adam Wainwright, who may stay in the bullpen. Signing one of two free agent pitchers, RHP Jeff Weaver or RHP Jeff Suppan, seems paramount. There is also need for another outfielder.

FREE AGENTS: RHPs Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, LHP Mark Mulder, 2B Ronnie Belliard, OF Preston Wilson, INF Jose Vizcaino.

Marquis is certainly gone. Mulder, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, might have interest in returning to the Cardinals on an incentive-laden basis. Wilson and Vizcaino probably are gone, though there may be some interest in Wilson. The others might be back, although Suppan and Weaver may have priced themselves out of the Cardinals' market with their strong postseason performances.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF So Taguchi, OF Larry Bigbie, INF Aaron Miles, RHP Jorge Sosa and (possibly) C Yadier Molina, LHP Randy Flores and RHP Josh Hancock.

The last three could be "super-twos," although probably not. Sosa and Miles might be tendered a contract, Taguchi probably not and the oft-injured Bigbie surely not. If Molina, Flores and Hancock are arbitration-eligible, they all would be re-signed.

IN LIMBO: Trade bait is marginal. RF Juan Encarnacion, a postseason disappointment, could go, although the last two years of his three-year, $15 million contract are backloaded. Probably nobody is on the market else unless the Cardinals don't feel they can play OF Chris Duncan every day because he is such a poor fielder. His market mostly would be to the American League as a designated hitter or as a first baseman.

PROSPECT WATCH: CF Skip Schumaker was impressive on the U.S. team that played in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He has speed and defensive ability and should make the club next year. LHP Chris Narveson, who was the best pitcher on a bad Triple-A team at Memphis, looked good in a late-season start at Houston and might make the rotation or the bullpen next season.


LHP Mark Mulder, who had rotator cuff surgery, thinks he'll be back early in the season, but he is a free agent and may not be re-signed.

RHP Jason Isringhausen, who had left hip surgery, may miss the first month of the season.

CF Jim Edmonds had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Nov. 15, and he may have to have something done to his left foot, which pained him late in the season.

RF Juan Encarnacion is expected to have something done to his left wrist.

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