The St. Louis Cardinals announced on Wednesday that they offered salary arbitration to free agent first baseman Albert Pujols and right-handed starting pitcher Edwin Jackson.
The two have until December 7 to accept or decline the offer. An acceptance would commit the player to remain with the Cardinals in 2012. If the two sides could not come to an agreement first, the player and club would be required to participate in a February arbitration hearing to set his 2012 salary. The far more likely case is that the offer is turned down, which means the Cardinals would receive compensatory draft picks if the player signs with another team.
The Cardinals also declined salary arbitration to free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal and left-handed relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes, both Type B free agents. The Cardinals will not receive compensation if either player signs with another club.
The top-ranked free agent in the market, the 31-year-old Pujols would fetch either a first- or second-round selection plus a supplemental pick in the 2012 draft as a Type A free agent if he signs elsewhere.
Part of the July Colby Rasmus trade from Toronto, Jackson is seemingly squeezed out of a spot in the Cardinals 2012 rotation by the return of Adam Wainwright and with four other incumbents under contract. The Type B free agent should garner a nice, multi-year deal from a pitching-hungry suitor, making the Cardinals' offer decision one with very minimal downside.
Furcal, acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31, made $13 million last season and as such presented a risk in arbitration. Given the current thin market for shortstops, the 33-year-old switch-hitter should be able to secure a multi-year deal elsewhere.
Rhodes, signed in August after his release by Texas, is 42 years of age. The Cardinals seem more likely to pursue a younger, higher-ceiling left-hander to complement Mark Rzepczynski.
Right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel was the fifth Cardinals free agent eligible for arbitration. The right-hander was originally a Type A but was adjusted to a special Type B as part of this week’s labor agreement between owners and players. In this case, the Cardinals receive a compensation pick without offering Dotel arbitration.
In the most likely scenario, Pujols would re-sign with the Cardinals, who would receive in total two supplemental picks between the first and second rounds of the 2012 draft in return for Dotel and Jackson.
Other Cardinals free agents not eligible for compensation are outfielder Corey Patterson, infielder Nick Punto and catcher Gerald Laird. The latter has already signed with Detroit.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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