The Cardinals' general manager, John Mozeliak had several meetings over the four day span with potential trading partners and agents for free-agents, but he couldn't pull the trigger on a deal that he felt would improve the club.
The exploratory groundwork has been laid by Mozeliak, his staff and scouts that will likely lead to a trade or signing of a free agent within the next couple of weeks. A starting pitcher, someone to protect Albert Pujols in the lineup and a leadoff hitter, are all still concerns that the Cardinals want and need to address.
The Cardinals have admitted that they will have to fill the holes in their lineup/roster most likely via the trade route, rather than getting in any bidding war for free-agents. This poses a significant problem for the new general manager in that, other than minor league prospects; Colby Rasmus, Chris Perez and Bryan Anderson, major leaguers; Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and ironically Anthony Reyes, other teams didn't show much interest in trading for players on the Cardinals' roster or in their farm system.
Manager, Tony La Russa speaking to the media on Wednesday, made it clear that he was not in favor of trading disgruntled third baseman Scott Rolen, but then he issued an inflammatory ultimatum. "He's (Rolen) got a contract to play, and we need him to play," La Russa said. "And he's going to be treated very honestly. If he plays hard and plays as well as he can, he plays. And if he doesn't, he can sit. If he doesn't like it, he can quit."
After failing to return La Russa's phone calls earlier in the week, Tony's public remarks incited a response from Rolen through his agent, "I will not dignify Tony's comments with any response at this time".
La Russa and Rolen have been feuding at least since the 2006 postseason, when Rolen was benched while struggling with a shoulder injury. Even a World Championship wasn't enough to reconcile the relationship. It didn't help when La Russa learned that Rolen was the lone dissenting voice about the manager returning for another season.
Trade talks throughout the week with as many as four teams, centered around Scott Rolen. The Cardinals made it clear while they were exploring their options, trading Rolen wasn't a deal that had to get done and it wouldn't get done, if it wasn't in the best interest of the ballclub.
As the Cardinals check out of the hotel on Thursday, teams don't seem to be willing to pay the Cardinals asking price for Rolen. He is still a Cardinal and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight, barring a trade, to this soap opera, that is sure to be continued for another season.
Thursday, the St. Louis Cardinals selected outfielder Brian Barton from the Cleveland Indians in the Rule 5 Draft. Barton underwent knee surgery at the end of the 2007 season, splitting playing time between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo. Barton hit .305/.402/.420 with 10 homers, 66 RBI and 21 steals. Barton has the potential to provide both power and speed production to the Cardinals' bench, if he can stick with the club out of spring training.
As the Winter Meetings come to a close, where do the Cardinals stand concerning trade talks or the signing of a free agent?
BARGAINING CHIPS: Scott Rolen, Anthony Reyes, and Chris Duncan.
UNTOUCHABLE: Colby Rasmus
TEAMS IN PLAY: Baltimore, California, Chicago (AL), Cleveland, Florida, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Texas.
ARRIVALS: Brian Barton, 25-year-old outfielder, selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2007 Rule 5 draft.
DEPARTURES: So Taguchi, the Cardinals declined their option on Taguchi, giving him his unconditional release.