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