Flores, 31, is classified by MLB as a "Super-Two", meaning that although he fell slightly short of the three-year major league service time requirement, he was still arbitration-eligible for the first time.
By agreeing to terms now, Flores and the Cardinals avoid potential arbitration hearings in both in 2007 and 2008. Outfielder So Taguchi is the only remaining unsigned and arbitration-eligible Cardinal.
Flores owns a career 4.92 ERA in 152 major league games, a majority of which have been with the Cardinals over the last two seasons. However, coming off bone spur surgery on his left elbow last off-season, Flores' overall 2007 results were substandard (5.62 ERA).
After the All-Star break, Flores was especially rough. As his elbow problems flared up again, Flores only pitched 15-2/3 innings of 8.04 ERA ball in the second half and was essentially displaced as the top lefty out of the pen by rookie Tyler Johnson.
Flores limped into the playoffs having allowed four home runs in just 5-1/3 September frames, but bounced back with 5-2/3 scoreless post-season innings. So, giving him two years may be considered a small risk by the Cardinals, even though it might actually enhance Flores' trade value.
With five other left-handers on the 40-man roster vying for two or at most three spots in the 2007 Cardinals bullpen, Flores and one or more of the group of Johnson, Ricardo Rincon and Chris Narveson may be trade bait going into the spring. Fellow lefty Randy Keisler was also recently signed by the club and prospect Troy Cate is coming on, as well.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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