Benson, who underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in March 2007, ending his spring training and his final season with the Baltimore Orioles, says the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers have expressed the most interest in his comeback.
If the season started today, with Chris Carpenter's availability for opening day still in question, the Cardinals would have to go with a four-man starting rotation consisting of RHP Adam Wainwright, RHP Kyle Lohse, RHP Todd Wellemeyer and RHP Joel Pineiro. Internal backup options for a fifth starter could include; swingman SHP Brad Thompson, reliever RHP Kyle McClellan and minor league starter RHP Mitchell Boggs.
Looking for insurance and depth in the rotation, the Cardinals are still considering signing or trading for starting pitcher outside the organization, with a trade being the most likely alternative.
With $85.1 million committed to Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright through 2011, the Cardinals have shied away from the top tier free agents this winter including; CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, while exploring potentially shorter term commitments with free agent starters such as Brad Penny, Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte and Randy Wolf.
The Cardinals reluctant to sign a deal in the three-year, $30 million range have taken a pass on even these second tier free-agent options and may be interested in Benson, who appears ready to accept a minor league deal and may accept something much like what the Phillies offered last season.
Benson was able to opt out of his contract with the Phillies if he wasn't on the 40-man roster by May 15. Signing Benson to a minor league contract, providing him with a similar option to opt out if the Cardinals find they don't need him in St. Louis, could be an option for the Cardinals.
Benson last pitched in the majors in 2006 posting an 11-12 record with a 4.82 ERA. He has a 68-73 career record and 4.34 ERA. He'll be showcased for interested teams on January 24 in Scottsdale, AZ.
Scout.com's Chuck Hixson contributed to this report
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