Mulder, 29, won't be able to pitch for the Cardinals until June or July after having shoulder surgery in September.
For Mulder, a 16-game winner in 2005 who fell to 6-7 when hurt last year, there is some unfinished business in St. Louis.
"I had fun here, and the one thing that ate at me was that no one in St. Louis -- not the coaches, the fans, even some of my teammates -- nobody in St. Louis has seen what I'm capable of doing," he said.
"Even in 2005, it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't what I'm capable of doing. That wasn't the sole reason for coming back, but it was one of the reasons."
Mulder is guaranteed $5 million this year and $6.5 million in 2008, plus at least a $1.5 million buyout in 2009. But incentives could swell the pact this season and especially in 2008, when he could make $11.5 million to $12 million.
General manager Walt Jocketty perhaps clinched the deal by visiting Mulder in Arizona after the latter had come back from his honeymoon.
"I expressed to (manager) Tony (La Russa) and Walt (in September) that I'd like to be back," Mulder said. "There was always the familiarity. But, yeah, it helped that St. Louis made it clear they wanted me back."
The Cardinals outbid Cleveland and Texas for Mulder, who will be the only left-handed starter in the rotation when he goes into it.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--In case RHPs Braden Looper or Brad Thompson aren't suitable as starters after coming out of the bullpen, the Cardinals sought to ensure coverage at the fifth starter slot by signing 33-year-old free agent RHP Ryan Franklin. Franklin, who used to be a starter with Seattle, made 66 appearances, all in relief, with Cincinnati and Philadelphia last year.
Franklin, who signed for one year at $1 million, served a 10-game suspension in August 2005 for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but general manager Walt Jocketty said he wasn't concerned by that. "That was two years ago," Jocketty said.
--LHP Randy Flores, one of two arbitration-eligible Cardinals, signed a two-year, $1.8 million contract. Flores, 31, didn't allow a run in seven postseason appearances last year.
--Manager Tony La Russa still is hopeful the club can re-sign OF Preston Wilson as a free agent. Wilson provided right-handed power (eight homers) as an extra man after the Cardinals picked him up from Houston last August.
--The Cardinals don't seem to be in the bidding for free agent RHP Jeff Weaver, who won a game in each of the three playoff rounds. The club went two weeks without speaking with Scott Boras, Weaver's representative.
--The club was expected to head to Washington to meet President Bush, a longtime friend of club chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.
--Pitched-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel was signed to a minor league contract after missing all of last season with a knee injury.
BY THE NUMBERS: .327 -- Opponents' batting average last year against LHP Mark Mulder, who pitched hurt much of the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't feel empty anymore." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on his Cardinals team finally winning the World Series in his 11th season on the job.