The St. Louis Cardinals announced Monday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year, $850,000 contract for 2008 with free-agent catcher Jason LaRue. In addition, free-agent pitchers Dewon Brazelton and John Wasdin have both agreed to minor league deals.
LaRue, 33, was signed to become the primary back-up to Yadier Molina, replacing free agent Gary Bennett. LaRue played for the Kansas City Royals last season and initially shared time with John Buck behind the plate.
Prior to joining the Royals, LaRue spent his first six-plus seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds (1999-2006). He owns a career .233 batting mark with 88 home runs and 316 RBI in 781 games and was signed by the Reds in the fifth round of the 1995 draft.
LaRue features a strong throwing arm, ranking in a tie for second with Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez for top percentage in throwing out opposing baserunners (37%) among Major League catchers since 2001 (minimum 5,000 innings caught), trailing only the Nationals’ Brian Schneider (38%). LaRue is 12th among the Majors catchers in both games started (626) and innings caught (5,533.0) since becoming a regular with the Reds in 2001.
The 5-11, 205-pound Bulverde, TX native had five consecutive seasons (2001-05) with 10 or more home runs and 50 or more RBI, including a career-high 16 home runs in 2003 and 60 RBI in 2005. The right-handed hitting LaRue caught five of the Royals six shutouts this past season and finished seventh among the majors’ catchers (minimum 50 starts) by throwing out 33.3% of attempted base stealers in 2007. He hit .148 with four home runs in 66 games with Kansas City.
The addition of LaRue puts the Cardinals' 40-man roster at 36 players. Some or all of the final four spots will be filled by Tuesday's deadline for filing protected rosters in preparation for next month's Rule 5 draft. Players potentially under consideration for being added include second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir and pitchers Jason Motte, Stuart Pomeranz and Mark Worrell.
Brazelton, 27, is a former first-round selection (third player overall) in the 2001 draft, who was rushed to the Majors by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and has yet to achieve anywhere near his potential. The Cardinals will be his fifth major league organization.
Brazelton attended spring camp last season as a non-roster invitee with the Kansas City Royals. He later made four starts for Triple-A Omaha (0-4, 7.11 ERA) before being released on April 28. Brazelton signed a minor league contract with Pittsburgh on May 31 and pitched the remainder of the season at Double-A Altoona, posting a 5-5 record and 3.53 ERA in 15 starts.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander last pitched in the majors in 2006 for San Diego, appearing in nine games (two starts). The majority of his six-year pro career was spent in the Tampa Bay organization, where he was their first-round selection out of Middle Tennessee State. Overall, he is 8-25 with a 6.39 ERA in 63 big-league games (43 starts).
Wasdin, 35, could provide the Cardinals with relief depth during the 2008 campaign. He broke spring camp with the Pittsburgh Pirates to start an injury-plagued 2007 season. He totaled 12 relief outings for the Pirates (1-1, 5.95 ERA) and was shut down for the season in late July due to a right wrist sprain.
Wasdin also started seven games for Triple-A Indianapolis, five while rehabbing from a sprained right thumb from June 2-22, and was 1-1 with a 6.37 ERA while walking three and striking out 40 in 35.1 innings. He was originally a first-round draft pick (25th overall) of the Oakland A’s in 1993.
Wasdin has appeared in 328 games (65 starts) at the big-league level and owns a 39-39 record with seven saves and a 5.28 ERA. A perfect game ranks among Wasdin’s career highlights, as he tossed one on April 7, 2003 while with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He attended Florida State University and pitched in the 1991 College World Series as a freshman.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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