Cardinals Major League Notebook: 11/24/11

St. Louis' negotiations with free agent Albert Pujols are moving slowly and don't appear close to resolution.

INSIDE PITCH

 

The Cardinals were taking a cautious, perhaps perilous, posture with free agent slugger Albert Pujols as December and the winter meetings approached.

Though the Miami Marlins appeared to be the only other team that had submitted an offer for the three-time Most Valuable Player, the Cardinals didn't seem to be in a rush to sign Pujols, apparently preferring instead to wait and see if any further interest developed at the Dec. 4-8 meetings in Dallas.

Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. had said a couple of weeks ago that the Cardinals were considering making another offer on top of the reported, nine-year, $198 million offer that Pujols and his camp had turned down in February. But it was not known if the Cardinals had as yet adjusted their stance.

One of the bottom lines in the equation was that many of the big-market teams, such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, seemed to have little interest in indulging themselves in a Pujols sweepstakes. Those teams either had a high-salaried first baseman, were in a rebuilding mode or were in the midst of a potential ownership change.

It appeared most likely that Pujols would be returning to the Cardinals, where he has starred for 11 seasons, but the decision was still a week or more off.

NOTES, QUOTES

1B Albert Pujols finished fifth in the Most Valuable Player voting, marking the 11th straight season he had finished in the top 10. Pujols got one third-place vote, and the rest were between fourth and 10th. Pujols was offered arbitration by the Cardinals but is expected to decline it.

C Gerald Laird, who left as a free agent to return to the Detroit Tigers, was the primary backup to four-time Gold Glover Yadier Molina this season, but that role probably will go to Tony Cruz or Bryan Anderson next season. Cruz, a right-handed hitter who also plays third base and first base, jumped ahead of Anderson this season and was a valuable contributor when Laird was hurt. But new manager Mike Matheny has been higher on the left-handed batting Anderson than others have been.

CF Jon Jay probably could use a right-handed hitting backup. The Cardinals do not really have that person on their roster although right-handed hitting OF/INF Allen Craig appeared in center field a couple of times this season.

RHP Octavio Dotel dropped from being a Type A free agent to Type B in baseball's new labor agreement. The upshot is that the Cardinals did not have to offer Dotel arbitration (which they did not) to receive a draft pick as compensation should Dotel sign with another team. The Cardinals had interest in retaining Dotel, a strong force both on the field and in the clubhouse after he was acquired from Toronto in late July.

RHP Edwin Jackson was offered arbitration, but SS Rafael Furcal and LHP Arthur Rhodes were not. Jackson is not expected to return, but the Cardinals still hope to bring back Furcal and possibly Rhodes.

INF Daniel Descalso made just nine of his 63 starts at second base this season and spent the majority of his time at third base. But Descalso is projected as a potential regular at second in 2012. General manager John Mozeliak said, "I think he's a very good baseball player who can handle the position."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Cardinals who received votes for National League Most Valuable Player - 1B Albert Pujols, RF Lance Berkman and C Yadier Molina.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I really don't see the need for a high rate of churn."

- GM John Mozeliak, on keeping much of the 2011 World Series champions together for 2012.

 

ROSTER REPORT

 

The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. There will be no standing pat, and that trend began three days after the World Series ended when manager Tony La Russa retired after 16 seasons.

 

DEPARTURE:

 

C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers).

 

BIGGEST NEEDS:

 

The top priority, after naming new manager Mike Matheny, is re-signing 1B Albert Pujols, the cream of the free agent class. Secondarily, the Cardinals need to address their shortstop-second base situation, which finished with Rafael Furcal, whose option was not picked up, at short and Skip Schumaker, who is arbitration-eligible, at second. Mozeliak has indicated interest in Furcal but at a much lower figure than $12 million. Schumaker, a converted outfielder, has improved at second base, but the Cardinals might not want to pay to keep both.

 

FREE AGENTS:

1B Albert Pujols, RHPs Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel, SS Rafael Furcal, OF Corey Patterson, INF Nick Punto, LHP Arthur Rhodes.

Every effort will be made to re-sign Pujols. Furcal and Dotel command interest by the Cardinals, but they won't be able to give Jackson a long-term deal. Rhodes is next most likely to be sought after by the Cardinals, but there won't be much money for him.

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE:

2B/OF Skip Schumaker, RHP Kyle McClellan. INF Ryan Theriot.

All, in theory, could be non-tendered. McClellan is the most likely to dealt. Either Schumaker or Theriot won't be back, and possibly both.

IN LIMBO:

 

RHP Kyle McClellan, who moved back to the bullpen when Jackson was acquired, is in competition with several young right-handed relievers who are less expensive. He wouldn't go back to the rotation, either, with the expected return of RHP Adam Wainwright, who missed 2011 with Tommy John elbow surgery. INF Tyler Greene, who had a strong Class AAA performance and who was going to get a late season look until the Cardinals got back into playoff contention, could be a trade candidate if the club doesn't figure to have a role for him. In limited duty with the Cardinals, Greene led the club in steals with 11 (in 11 attempts).

 

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Adam Wainwright is expected to go to Jupiter, Fla., just after Jan. 1 to begin throwing in earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training.

LF Matt Holliday might need his right hand, injured twice late in the season, attended to.

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