The Redbird Report 11/30

As for Tejada, the Cardinals' chances of obtaining him from Baltimore have been described by one source as "slim to none."

As the Cardinals' brass headed for the winter meetings in Nashville, it appeared their focus on a potential shortstop had shifted away from David Eckstein, the incumbent for the past three seasons, and more to a group featuring Jack Wilson and Cesar Izturis, both of whom finished 2007 with Pittsburgh. To a lesser degree, the Cardinals were looking at expensive Miguel Tejada of Baltimore.

The Cardinals were not apt to offer salary arbitration to Eckstein, who, if he accepted that offer, would be a signed player. "Dealing with the free agent market, we don't want to have someone else swoop in," general manager John Mozeliak said.

Izturis and Eckstein are free agents.

Eckstein has batted .294, .292 and .304 in his three seasons with the Cardinals, including winning the Most Valuable Player award in the 2006 World Series won by St. Louis. But he has been limited to 240 games the past two seasons, primarily because of a back ailment, and he made 20 errors in 117 games in 2007.

"A lot of it is dictated by him and his agent," Mozeliak said. "Clearly right now we have to make sure we're in the same ballpark."

Wilson, originally signed by the Cardinals before being dealt to Pittsburgh in 2000, hit .296 last season but is owed nearly $14 million through 2009.

The slick-fielding Izturis is a .259 lifetime hitter. Neither he nor Wilson would fill Eckstein's leadoff role.

As for Tejada, the Cardinals' chances of obtaining him from Baltimore have been described by one source as "slim to none."

Failing to sign or obtain any of the aforementioned, the Cardinals would have to fall back on Brendan Ryan, who hit .288 in 180 at-bats in 2007 but committed 10 errors in the infield.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--C Jason LaRue, who signed a one-year deal for an estimated $850,000, almost certainly will be the backup catcher to Yadier Molina.

--RHP Brian Falkenborg, who was impressive at times out of the bullpen last season, was released.

--OF Cody Haerther, who had been claimed off waivers by Toronto, was reclaimed by the Cardinals when the Blue Jays had to make a roster move to accommodate a new player. Haerther, 24, was limited to 31 minor league games due to injury last season.

--Among those added to the 40-man roster was 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir, who hit .345 at Class AA Springfield and .300 at Class AAA Memphis with a total of 11 homers and 57 RBIs.

--The Cardinals have expressed interest in free agent RHPs Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva but have not made offers. Lohse beat the Cardinals with two strong outings last season while pitching for Cincinnati.

--Manager Tony La Russa's DUI case from spring training finally was resolved when he pleaded guilty in a Florida court. Among other things, La Russa will have to perform 25 community-service hours, and he had his driver's license suspended for six months, although in spring training, Florida law will allow him to drive to and from the Cardinals' complex.

La Russa apologized for his actions in a letter. "I accept full responsibility for my conduct and assure everyone that I have learned a very valuable lesson and that this will never occur again," he wrote.

BY THE NUMBERS: 48-72 -- Record compiled by the Cardinals rotation last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Timing may be the most important part of all this. If you wait too long, the free agent market might have come and gone. Trades aren't going to wait forever on you, either." -- GM John Mozeliak.


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