In all fairness, there is nothing all that new or earth-shattering that follows. The club wants Mark Mulder and Jeff Weaver back and in addition, they are bottom-feeding to see if they can snag a low-dollar addition to augment the thin starting staff already in house.
Word is that Mulder's agent prefers he go to the Cleveland Indians because that is the best deal on the table but Mulder would rather return to St. Louis. Due to Mulder's preference, all the Cardinals have to do is match the Indians' offer and Mulder will apparently accept it.
The Cardinals have to decide whether or not to up their proposal to guarantee two years. In doing so, they would require Mulder to accept more money in incentives. But, they may be somewhat reluctant to make that year two guarantee as it would create a precedent that they might not want to set for a pitcher coming off injury.
The word is that Mulder wants his contract settled ASAP. I guess the bottom line is that either the Cardinals match the Indians' offer or they lose him. Seems like it may be that simple.
At least the Cardinals are talking with agent Scott Boras, but they don't seem to be making progress. The problem is that the remaining free agent pitchers want the kind of money that the earlier free agents received and their agents are not yet inclined to lower the asking price.
Weaver is said to have a two-year offer on the table from the Cardinals that is very similar to the one that was first made sometime in November. It is apparently two years at around $14-15 million. So far, the club has not been willing to go three years, even via an option. Ultimately, the Cards will likely bend and go three years if they have to, but a four-year bid is apparently totally out of the question.
Weaver has reportedly told Boras that he wants to go back to St. Louis but Boras wants him to strongly consider the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays because he thinks he can get more years and more money from them. The Mets are in on Weaver, too, but it is thought that they are just exploring their options.
It may come down to whether or not Boras and Weaver will find four years anywhere else. Seems unlikely in a sane world, at least.
The Cardinals are speaking with the agents of:
While I did not learn the financials of these offers, it is assumed they are low-ball take-it-or-leave-it kinds of bids, as each has suffered through either injury or ineffectiveness recently. The Mets are apparently making offers to Ohka and Armas, too.
Speaking of injured pitchers, as reported elsewhere, Cardinals West Coast crosschecker Chuck Fick attended one of Brian Lawrence's workouts. It is unclear whether or not the Cardinals have yet made a formal bid, but there is at least some interest there. Some think the rehabbing Lawrence would be an ideal fit for the Cardinals.
As an aside, here is a most credible version of how the Jeff Suppan deal with Milwaukee went down. File this one under "nice to know, but it is water over the mill at this point". Still, it is a great illustration of the high-stakes poker game these big boys play.
Despite all the talk in the press, Suppan reportedly had only three contract offers before he signed with the Brewers. One was from the Cardinals, one was from the Houston Astros while the third was from the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants' offer was supposedly the best by far as it was for three years/$28 million with an option for a fourth year at $10 million. That offer was only made to Suppan contingent on Barry Zito not signing with them.
Once it became likely that Zito would go to the Giants, Suppan's agent decided to take his shot and it paid off big time. He called Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and told him that if the Brewers offered four years/$40 million, he would guarantee that Suppan would take it and not seek any additional dollars or other perks.
The Brewers GM took the proposal at face value, extended the offer, and Suppan signed it. And that was that.
Monday update - Mulder and Escobar
I have been told the Cardinals submitted their final offer to Mulder's agent over the weekend and are waiting to see what happens. An announcement one way or another could be close.
One pitcher about whom the Cardinals have apparently been in trade discussions is right-hander Kelvim Escobar of the Angels. He is signed through 2009 and is owed $27 million over the next three seasons. No word on what is being asked for in the other direction and therefore I cannot yet gauge how serious this is.
The 30-year old Venezuelan has been dogged recently by patellar tendinitis (knee) and especially elbow problems, missing much of the 2005 season as a result. His career record, all in the American League, is 83-83 with a 4.26 ERA. Escobar was with Toronto from 1997 through 2003 before joining the Angels three seasons ago.
Though inconsistent, Escobar could slip into the number two starter's role behind Chris Carpenter. He features a mid-90s fastball with late movement along with a full arsenal - curve, change-up and his out pitch, a splitter.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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