On Thursday, St. Louis Cardinals catchers Gary Bennett and Kelly Stinnett plus outfielder Preston Wilson filed for free agency, bringing the team’s total number to eight. Earlier, pitchers Troy Percival and Kip Wells and infielders Russell Branyan, Miguel Cairo and David Eckstein also formalized their declaration.
Players are allowed to file for the first 15 days after the World Series ends. This year, the deadline is November 12. However, the Cardinals are apparently done with filings for now as the eight are the only eligible free agents previously on their roster.
Along with the free agents, the Cardinals have recently trimmed other roster spots by releasing pitcher Mike Maroth and declining their 2008 option on outfielder So Taguchi. In addition, the club had already declined their option on Bennett for next season, making Thursday’s filing inevitable.
In 2007, Bennett and Stinnett served as back-ups for Cardinals starting catcher Yadier Molina. Bennett, 35, batted .252 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 155 at-bats over 59 games in his second year with the team and 12th in the Majors. Stinnett, 37, hit .159 with one home run and five RBIs in 82 at-bats after being acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in June.
Wilson’s chronic knee problems limited the nine-year veteran to just 25 games in his first full season as a Cardinal. In 64 at-bats, the 33-year-old outfielder batted .219 with one home run and five RBIs.
The Cardinals will have the option to offer arbitration to any one of these free agents, but it seems unlikely for almost all. Of the group, Eckstein seems to have the best shot at returning to St. Louis in 2008 and that is far from assured.
With all these moves, the Cardinals’ 40-man roster currently sits at 36, giving them needed flexibility for a possible combination of signings, trades or Rule 5 draft-related moves in the upcoming weeks.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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