Cardinals Rumor Mill - December 21, 2006

Is Christmas another deadline set by Mark Mulder, only to be missed? Or, is it the Cardinals who are pushing to fill their stocking with something other than coal?

These seem to be the most pressing questions from inside the Cardinals camp as we wind closer and closer to the Holidays.

Mark Mulder
There has been a late and aggressive entrant into the Mulder sweepstakes, I am told. The Cleveland Indians may be guaranteeing two years, with an easily-attainable option for year three. While not said explicitly, I read this to be a player option, which Mulder could exercise or decline as he chooses down the road.

It was reported previously that Mulder may only want to go two years on this contract, to give him time to re-prove himself and cash in big in 24 months. This third-year option, if it is a player option, would give him a bit more security if he is unable to fully come back from his rotator cuff surgery. More on Mulder's health is coming in a new story tomorrow.

The Cardinals once again apparently thought they had a deal wrapped up – this time with Mulder - only to have it unravel. They were under the impression that their long session Tuesday night with Mulder's agent may have satisfied the pitcher's requirements. But now Cleveland has upped their offer and Texas has apparently been granted more time to improve their bid again, too, while the Cardinals wait.

Whether Mulder is actually willing to go to Cleveland is unknown, but it is obvious that the Indians have mucked up the Cardinals plans at a minimum. The lefty is reportedly on his honeymoon in Tahiti, so it is unclear whether any deal can be locked up while he is away.

I say that not because of financials, as his agent is likely empowered to close on the terms. However, the Indians have probably not examined the player and with his shoulder situation, they may be hesitant to go the final mile without both seeing records and getting a direct look at the pitcher's valuable left shoulder. Or will this be a case when a deal is announced pending a physical?

If a decision is made soon, it could still be in the Cardinals' favor, but as the days march on, their competitors look to be getting stronger.

Jeff Suppan
Even if the Cardinals eventually get back around to Jeff Suppan, their weeks of inattention may come back to bite them. Suppan may be of a mindset that an extension was earned but has been soured by a lack of focus and lack of a competitive bid from his club of the last three seasons.

This scenario, if true, is one that has come to pass fairly often in past years, as former Cardinals such as Matt Morris, Mike Matheny and Woody Williams expressed similar concerns about the Cardinals (lack of) negotiating on their way out the door.

It is difficult to determine if there is any residual damage caused if the organization gets a reputation as one that is not perceived to show proper respect to departing players.

Joel Pineiro
I am told that any deals for the free-agent righty must include a guarantee that he be placed in the starting rotation. In 2006, Pineiro was in and out of the Seattle starting five, mostly due to his own inconsistency.

The Cardinals apparently do not want to make this assurance despite their obvious need for starting pitching. I can't say as I blame them. Bottom line, Pineiro to the Cardinals remains very low odds.

Carl Pavano
Trade discussion for the Yankees right-hander are not dead, but negotiations slowed this past week as Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was apparently focusing his energies on signing Japanese pitcher Kei Igawa. Reports are that deal is five years, $20 million in addition to the $25 million posting fee which goes to his previous club, the Hanshin Tigers.

With another pitcher safely on Cashman's roster, the Yanks now have six starters under contract – Igawa, Randy Johnson, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang and Pavano. Perhaps the two sides will reconvene on Pavano after the Holidays. But the money remains the problem.



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

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