Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/03/11

Cards GM John Mozeliak

St. Louis' winter meeting plans hinge on the Albert Pujols contract negotiations.

INSIDE PITCH

 

St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak's Plan A as he went to baseball's winter meetings was to re-sign free agent first baseman Albert Pujols. But, with other Cardinals free agents, such as shortstop Rafael Furcal, in limbo until Pujols either signs or leaves, Mozeliak had to have a Plan B, too.

"I don't feel like right now everything outside of Albert's situation is urgent," said Mozeliak.

"That said, the one takeaway we have to have in the next couple of weeks is what is the likelihood of us getting something done (with Pujols). I think directionally, that's we're looking for."

Furcal's representative has said his client wants to play alongside Pujols again and is willing to wait, to a point. Reliever Octavio Dotel, a key figure in the Cardinals' stretch run to the World Series championship, is in the same boat.

"Dotel would like to be a Cardinal," said Dotel's agent, Dan Horwits. "Obviously, the Cardinals have some other contracts to address first, and we understand that."

Mozeliak summarized the situation, mostly pertaining to Furcal, thusly:

"It's about if we can retain Albert, then we're going to look like 'X.' If we can't, we'll go in this direction. The risk is, yes, if you want too long for resolution (on Pujols), then there could be some opportunities that go away.

"If we had to wake up and give (shortstop) Tyler Greene an opportunity, we would be comfortable with that."

NOTES, QUOTES

LHP J.C. Romero, let go by Philadelphia during the season, has heard from the Cardinals. The Cardinals are looking for a veteran left-handed reliever to go with young Marc Rzepczynski.

RHP Shelby Miller was named the organization's minor leaguer pitcher of the year for the second year in succession. Miller, who was 11-6 with a 2.77 earned run average in 25 starts for Class A Palm Beach and Class AA Springfield, might start at either Springfield or Class AAA Memphis next season. But Miller, 21, isn't far away from the majors. "I think he'll tell us where he needs to be at the end of spring training," said farm director John Vuch.

1B Matt Adams, who set a Class AA Springfield record with 32 homers and also hit .300, was named the organization's minor league player of the year. Adams would learn to become an outfielder if 1B Albert Pujols is re-signed. If not, he ranks as a first base candidate for 2013. "We feel he's going to be a major league level hitter," farm director John Vuch said.

1B Albert Pujols had offers only from the Miami Marlins and Cardinals before the winter meetings began although the Chicago Cubs were a third team to express interest. It appeared agent Dan Lozano and Pujols wouldn't make any decisions until the winter meetings, where Lozano hoped to receive more offers.

SS Jimmy Rollins might be someone the Cardinals would seek if 1B Albert Pujols isn't re-signed. The longtime Philadelphia star would seem a more reliable fit than the several players the Cardinals employed at shortstop in 2011.

RHP Lance Lynn and OF Adron Chambers, who were with the Cardinals for less than half the season, were awarded full shares of the club's World Series pie because they appeared on the postseason roster for one or more series.

BY THE NUMBERS: $323,170 - What a full World Series share was worth for the 51 full shares awarded by the Cardinals.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It seems like things are lined up so that there can be this crescendo at the meetings."

- GM John Mozeliak, on the negotiation process with free agents, notably 1B Albert Pujols.

 

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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