Cardinals Major League Notebook: 01/05/10

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to inch closer to a new contract with their winter's "Plan A", free agent outfielder Matt Holliday.



   "Plan B" for the Cardinals in 2010 went awry when infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa signed a two-year deal with San Francisco, but "Plan A" seemed to be full-speed ahead anyway.


   Most signs were pointing to the Cardinals being close to re-upping free agent left fielder Matt Holliday, a linchpin in their second-half surge to the National League Central title last season.


   There were reports from various sources that significant progress was being made and that the Cardinals could have Holliday in the fold as early as the first full week of the new year.


   "I'm still hopeful," general manager John Mozeliak said, "but there's still work to be done."


   For much of the offseason, the Cardinals seemed to have been running largely unopposed in their bid to re-sign Holliday, who hit .353 with 55 RBIs in 63 games for the Cardinals after being acquired from Oakland on July 24. And once DeRosa went to San Francisco and free agent left fielder Jason Bay signed with the Mets, those two teams also were eliminated.


   After Boston pulled an offer to Holliday and then gave right-hander John Lackey $82.5 million for five years that effectively dropped the Red Sox out of the bidding. Neither the Yankees nor the Angels had displayed public interest in Holliday, who will be 30 on Jan. 15.


   The Cardinals and agent Scott Boras apparently had discussed several contract structures, including a five-year guaranteed deal and an eight-year framework. The average annual salary would be higher in the five-year deal and surely would be at $16 million or above.


   Bay got $16.5 million per year from the Mets, and Boras has been said to be seeking a contract in the $18 million-per-year range.




   --The Cardinals were interested in bringing back INF Felipe Lopez, who hit .385 for them in the final two months of the 2008 season before they allowed him to get away in free agency. Lopez, who could be a regular at third base or protection at several positions, hit .310 in 604 at-bats with Arizona and Milwaukee last year.


   --If, for some reason, the Matt Holliday deal didn't materialize, the Cardinals would fall back to pursing such outfielders as Xavier Nady and Jermaine Dye. "There are still plenty of options out there for us," general manager John Mozeliak said.


   --The Cardinals did not make an offer for free agent INF/OF Mark DeRosa before he signed with San Francisco. If they had given him the $6 million or so per year that he received for two years from San Francisco, it would have affected their pursuit of Holliday. "We wish it would have worked out with Mark because he's such a fantastic guy," Mozeliak said.


   --Not ready to rely yet on young LHP Jaime Garcia being a full-time rotation member after he had missed a large portion of the 2009 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, the Cardinals will look for a veteran option, perhaps even RHP John Smoltz, as a fifth-starter alternative. Smoltz was impressive at age 42 for the Cardinals in the final two months of the 2009 season.


   --RHP Kyle McClellan, who spent the entire 2009 season in the bullpen, may be conditioned again as a starter this spring if the Cardinals fail to land another free agent starter.


   BY THE NUMBERS: 39-25 -- The Cardinals' record after acquiring OF Matt Holliday from Oakland last July.


   QUOTE TO NOTE: "I was just tired of being a lot of teams' 'Plan B.'" -- Free agent INF/OF Mark DeRosa, after signing with San Francisco.




   The Cardinals didn't have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, both likely will be gone as free agents.


   BIGGEST NEEDS: When the Cardinals were dismissed early from the playoffs, they set the wheels in motion to try to re-sign free agent LF Matt Holliday and also 3B Mark DeRosa. Holliday, however, seemed likely to go into the open market.


   ARRIVAL: RHP Brad Penny (free agent from Giants).


   DEPARTURES: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Joe Thurston (free agent, signed minor league deal with Braves), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent, signed with Braves, pending physical), INF Mark DeRosa (free agent, signed with Giants).


   FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, INF Khalil Greene, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday.


   The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and some interest in Smoltz. The others probably are gone.


   ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Ryan Ludwick, 2B Skip Schumaker.


   Schumaker will make more as a second baseman than an outfielder. Ludwick likely will get close to $7 million and might have to be traded for payroll relief if Holliday signs a multiyear deal.


   IN LIMBO: OF Ryan Ludwick, a candidate to be traded last year, could be dealt this time. RHP Josh Kinney, a playoff hero in 2006, probably won't return.




   1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.

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