Cardinals Winter Bits and Pieces – 12/01/07

Off-season news and speculation regarding recent and possible upcoming happenings surrounding the St. Louis Cardinals.

Troy Percival

There has been a lot of discussion on our message board and elsewhere about reliever Troy Percival, specifically wondering whether there was a gentlemen's agreement or even contractual terms defined between the player and club that the Cardinals would not offer him arbitration.

That is definitely not the case. But it doesn't mean that the Cardinals weren't counting on getting his compensatory pick.

Percival signed with Tampa Bay before the midnight Saturday deadline, so the Cardinals receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the 2008 draft. Percival will earn $8 million over the next two years with a chance for another $4 million in appearance bonuses. The Rays get a new closer.

So, everyone seems to be happy with how it worked out. The only exceptions may be the Rays' American League East rival New York Yankees, who lost out in the battle for Percival's services, and former Cardinals reliever Al Reyes, who has been the Rays' incumbent closer, but struggled with injuries for part of last season.

David Eckstein

In case there was any doubt, the Cardinals are not going to offer their former shortstop arbitration by the Saturday midnight deadline. Unless something dramatic happens, do not expect the popular Eckstein back in a Cardinals uniform to start the 2008 season.

It was great while it lasted, though. David is a very fine human being, always accessible to fans and the press. He will also be popular wherever he plays next season and beyond.

Cesar Izturis

Where there has been some fan concern expressed over the new shortstop, informal discussions with the Cardinals reinforce the view that by the metrics they use, the player's defense has remained strong. Looking at the rest of the roster, there is no one other than Brendan Ryan who is even potentially capable of playing everyday shortstop on a championship club (sorry, Aaron Miles).

So, look at Friday's move for what it is – a short-term insurance policy. While I made it clear in my article Friday that the move does not excite me, and it still doesn't, it is clearly better than overpaying for Eckstein or bringing in a retread like former Cardinal Royce Clayton - as long as the club is not done for the winter.

On the other hand, if a better shortstop than Izturis is non-tendered on December 12, then it might be worth second-guessing this decision. (Remember that is how Eckstein came available three years ago, when the Angels non-tendered him.)

Finally, do not assume that Izturis is being penciled in as the leadoff man. Informally, club officials acknowledge that is an area that still needs to be addressed. At this point of the off-season, let's keep some faith they can do better than a man with a sub-.300 career OBP to head their 2008 lineup.

New AGM coming

In between signing free agents, word is that John Mozeliak has been busy trying to replace himself – in his old job as assistant general manager, that is. A long list of candidates has been whittled down with an announcement expected to be coming very soon.

Impending roster changes

When Izturis was added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster on Friday, John Rodriguez was designated for assignment in the related transaction. With the 40-man full, this approach may continue to be used by the club in the near future if the need arises for another roster spot during the upcoming Winter Meetings.

Once the December 12 non-tender deadline for three-to-six year players comes, there is a decent chance that one of more of those players will be non-tendered. That would open roster spots at that time, as well. I will post an article looking into this in more detail on Sunday.

Juan Encarnacion

With all the focus on the 40-man roster, I have received a number of questions asking why the Cardinals do not agree to pay injured outfielder Juan Encarnacion for next season and simply drop him from their roster. It is more complicated than one may imagine at first blush and I don't think it is about salary or the roster spot, per se.

Until the player's medical situation is clarified, which may take some time, we may not learn more. Probably at least partially due to HIPAA regulations, which govern the release of medical information, the Cardinals say the situation is confidential and do not want/can not provide further details.

While I am neither a legal expert nor did I stay in a Holiday Inn last night, I do believe that the club cannot simply drop the player any more than a business can fire or lay off an employee when there could be open and ongoing questions regarding such matters as injury, disability and pension. There are doctors and insurance companies and unions and lawyers and agents to be considered.

Regarding the roster specifically, there are no options for putting a player on the disabled list during the off-season. So, Encarnacion will remain on the 40-man either until this comes to closure or until the end of spring training, whichever comes first. At that time, if the situation remains in limbo, he could be moved onto the 60-day disabled list, which does not count against the 40 man limit.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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