Cardinals Major League Notebook: 12/12/11

Pujols met LA fans on Saturday

The St. Louis Cardinals are moving ahead after losing free agent Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

INSIDE PITCH

 

In Albert Pujols' 11 seasons in St. Louis, the Cardinals were the most successful team in the National League. They played in three World Series, winning two, and participated in the playoffs eight times.

But now the Cardinals start a new chapter with Pujols having jumped to the Los Angeles Angels via a 10-year contract. The Cardinals also had offered 10 years but for not nearly as much money as the reported $254 million the Angels shelled out.

What it meant initially was that Lance Berkman was the first baseman. Who would be the right fielder to replace Berkman was open to question, with valuable infielder/outfielder Allen Craig to be sidelined four to six months after knee surgery. Craig had suffered a broken kneecap last June 7 when he slid into a wall in Houston, and the knee never did respond properly although Craig was a postseason hero anyway.

"I would like our fans to know that we tried our best to make Albert a lifetime Cardinal, but unfortunately we were unable to make it happen," said Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.

General manager John Mozeliak, echoing that sentiment, said, "We feel good about the effort made toward retaining Albert. We tried to make it work a couple different ways. Ultimately, he chose a different direction. But I'm comfortable with how we went about it."

The Cardinals' modified proposal was believed to be worth a potential $210 million for up to 10 years, with nine years guaranteed. That wasn't really any higher than the nine-year, $198 million offer rejected by Pujols before last spring training. Pujols refused to discuss an extension during the season.

Pujols' numbers in most offensive categories are on a three-year decline, but he remains one of the game's elite players. In 2011 he hit 37 home runs and batted .299 while helping the Cardinals to their 11th World Series title.

NOTES, QUOTES

SS Rafael Furcal will reportedly rejoin the Cardinals after signing a two-year deal.

Furcal, who joined the defending World Series champs last season after coming over in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers, will just need to pass his physical and the deal will be done, sources told ESPN.com.

The 34-year-old shortstop is a career .282 hitter, who batted .255 in 50 games for the Cardinals last season.

A two-time all-star and former Rookie of the Year, Furcal will have to recover from a recent appendectomy, according to reports, but was expected to be ready next spring.

Furcal hit just .194 last October in the postseason for the Cardinals.

INF/OF Allen Craig had surgery on his right knee a week before Thanksgiving, and the club is prepared for the possibility that he won't be available for Opening Day and perhaps a month beyond. Craig, a World Series hero with three home runs and a couple of other big hits, had two screws placed in his right kneecap to repair the damage done when he crashed into a fence at Houston's Minute Maid Park on June 7. Craig had his surgery in Vail, Colo., at The Steadman Clinic, and his recovery time was pegged at four to six months, meaning he could be out until May. But Craig said, "The six months is at the far end of the spectrum. Barring a setback, (the doctors) are confident that it will take four to five months."

With Albert Pujols gone, the Cardinals have more money with which to pursue an outfielder, with free agent Carlos Beltran an intriguing possibility.

RHP Octavio Dotel agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers despite voicing a desire to return to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have discussed the availability of signing LHP Mike Gonzalez, a free agent reliever who finished last season with the Texas Rangers. Marc Rzepczynski is the only left-handed reliever on the roster, and general manager John Mozeliak has mentioned him as a candidate for the starting rotation should the club trade one of two right-handers, Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook, for salary relief.

BY THE NUMBERS: 445 - Career home runs for former 1B Albert Pujols, 30 short of Stan Musial's Cardinals record.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He should have been a Cardinal for life."

- Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, on the departure of Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels.

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. But now that first baseman Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era.

 

DEPARTURES:

 

1B Albert Pujols (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers).

 

BIGGEST NEEDS:

 

The Cardinals need to address their second base situation, which finished with Skip Schumaker, who is arbitration-eligible. Schumaker, a converted outfielder, has improved at second base, but the Cardinals might not want to pay to keep him.

 

FREE AGENTS:

RHPs Edwin Jackson, OF Corey Patterson, INF Nick Punto, LHP Arthur Rhodes.

The Cardinals 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, RHP Jason Motte, INF Ryan Theriot.

All except Motte, 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.

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