Cardinals Rumor Mill – December 17, 2006

The latest news on free agents and trades the St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to be considering.

As always, what follows are rumors, not fact. They are not made up, however. Consider them possibilities the Cardinals are investigating, but do not be disappointed if some or all do not come to pass.

Carl Pavano
Several weeks ago, when the Carl Pavano rumors began to arise again, I said three conditions would have to be met for a deal to come to pass. They are:

1) Cardinals comfortable with Pavano's medical reports
2) Agree on the player(s) to go from the Cardinals to the Yankees
3) Agree on the amount of money from the Yankees to the Cardinals to help cover Pavano's remaining salary

My sources tell me that the Cardinals felt good enough about #1 to offer a list of players to the Yankees and that the two sides agreed on a player (or players) in return for Pavano.

HOWEVER, they are still "substantially" apart on money. Word out of New York is that the Yanks want to wait until Spring Training to deal Pavano, if they move him at all.

Whether or not that is really their intention, it is a wise public stance to take, as the price of pitching will increase even more once Barry Zito, Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder are off the market. Plus, if Pavano pitches well in March, his value will rise further.

In addition, they do not yet have Japanese import Kei Igawa in the fold, though it is expected, but Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte are one year older. So, the Yanks would be wise to hold tight for now.

Brandon Claussen
Speaking of the Yankees, I am told the Cardinals have made contact with the agent for former Yanks top prospect Brandon Claussen.

The-left hander was non-tendered last week after August surgery to repair a small tear in his rotator cuff. He has not yet begun to throw and though he says he will be ready for the start of the season, it has to remain a question mark at this time.

Prior to an awful 2006, Claussen had a promising 2005 for the Reds, posting a 4.21 ERA in 29 starts. He will be arbitration-eligible, but has three seasons remaining prior to free agency.

It is unclear whether or not the Cardinals have offered a major-league deal for the 27-year old, but if so, they might have a chance. Or, will they wait on another lefty free agent?

Mark Mulder
Speaking of lefties, the Cardinals remain cautiously optimistic that Mark Mulder will come back to them. I am not so sure. From others I get mixed messages, such as, "If he was so anxious to come back, he would have decided that last week before he got married".

Others think Mulder would prefer Arizona for climate and family reasons, while yet others believe he may come back to St. Louis because he honestly feels he owes the club and their fans.

I really don't know what to think other than it seems that the Diamondbacks would need to alter their five-year offer without incentives (a club policy) to better align with what Mulder apparently wants and what the Cardinals have offered. That would be more in the line of one year-plus-option, but no more than two years.

Update: I have been led to believe that this is down to Texas versus St. Louis and Mulder seems close to being ready to make his decision.

Jeff Weaver
This situation has gone very, very quiet. One line of thinking is that Weaver will again become a significant priority for the club if they can't reach an agreement with Mulder. That would make some sense, given the free-agent options available to them are shrinking by the week.

Still, I don't know why they aren't going full out to get both Weaver and Mulder, given the dearth of other proven alternatives.

Joel Pineiro
The former Mariners pitcher is arguably the most sought-after of the pitchers non-tendered last week. I am told the Cardinals have spoken to Pineiro's agent about a one-year deal.

I doubt even the Cards themselves believe that a one-year offer will be competitive. Looks like a low-odds deal to me.

Jayson Werth and Damon Hollins
It just seems like it is all about pitching. The Cardinals have apparently offered two non-tendered outfielders minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training. They are Jayson Werth, formerly of the Dodgers and Damon Hollins, previously with Tampa Bay.

I prefer the oft-injured Werth, who still has upside remaining, over the 32-year old Hollins, though the latter did pop 28 home runs over the last two seasons while batting just .239.

Chances are good that some other team will spring for a major league deal for Werth and perhaps for Hollins, too. So again, unless the Cards increase their ante, I am not getting excited about the prospects of anything happening here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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