Inside Pitch The Cardinals, hoping to at least gain some draft pick compensation, offered arbitration to three of their free agents — Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Joel Pineiro.
Holliday would command the most compensation — either a first- or second-round draft pick and a supplemental first-round pick, while DeRosa and Pineiro, as Type B free agents, would net a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.
General manager John Mozeliak was prepared for any and all to accept arbitration; any player who does accept is considered a signed player for 2010.
“It’s all about recognizing your exposure should players accept,” Mozeliak said. “I’m comfortable where we stand in regard to those players who received offers.”
That trio of players made $26.5 million last season, although the Cardinals were on the hook for half or less than half of the salaries of DeRosa and Holliday, who were acquired during the season.
Mozeliak likely was to spend much of his time at the winter meetings in Indianapolis trying to survey the Holliday landscape.
“We’re not letting (the Holliday matter) preclude us from doing our business,” Mozeliak said. “There definitely is a strategic change if he’s out, but I’m comfortable if that takes another one or two weeks to clarify.”
Notes and Quotes –The Cardinals jumped into the free agent pool — their own — when they re-signed backup C Jason LaRue to a one-year contract worth $950,000, the same as he made in 2009. Calling LaRue, who hit .240 in 104 at-bats a “known quantity,” GM John Mozeliak suggested a one-year commitment to LaRue made sense because of the potential advancement of minor league Cs Bryan Anderson and Matt Pagnozzi. –INF Ruben Gotay was signed to a minor league deal and was given an invitation to spring training. The 26-year-old switch hitter batted .272 at Class AAA Reno with 102 walks last season.
–In a move that surprised no one, the club did not offer arbitration to 3B Troy Glaus, who missed nearly all of last season after shoulder surgery and assorted minor injuries. After driving in 99 runs in 2008, Glaus still was rated a Type B free agent in rankings covering the past two seasons, but the Cardinals felt they couldn’t run the risk of having Glaus, who made $12.5 million in 2009, accept an arbitration offer.
–The Cardinals did not offer arbitration to any of their other free agents — OF Rick Ankiel, SS Khalil Greene and RHPs Todd Wellemeyer and John Smoltz. Smoltz does have some appeal to them for 2010, though, while the others, especially Greene and Wellemeyer, do not.
–Should the Cardinals have to pursue another outfielder if Matt Holliday signs elsewhere, Xavier Nady, who was hurt for much of the season with the Yankees last season, qualifies as a candidate. Nady presumably is recovered from a right elbow injury that limited him to seven games in 2009.
BY THE NUMBERS: $29,446.60 — A full playoff share for the Cardinals, who won a division title but were ousted in the first round of the 2009 playoffs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We understood the risk when we traded for (Matt) Holliday, knowing he was looking to go into the market and test his value. Knowing that we get a first- and a sandwich-round pick back is comforting, sure. But at the same time, that’s not really the first goal.” — GM John Mozeliak, on what would happen if the Cardinals did not re-sign the free agent outfielder.
Roster Report The Cardinals didn’t have many needs as the season ended although they probably could use one more veteran starting pitcher to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse. RHPs Joel Pineiro and Todd Wellemeyer, who filled out the rotation, both likely will be gone as free agents.
BIGGEST NEEDS: When the Cardinals were dismissed early from the playoffs, they set the wheels in motion to try to re-sign free-agent LF Matt Holliday and also 3B Mark DeRosa. Holliday, however, seemed likely to go into the open market.
DEPARTURE: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals).
FREE AGENTS: RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Todd Wellemeyer, RHP John Smoltz, INF Khalil Greene, INF Mark DeRosa, 3B Troy Glaus, OF Rick Ankiel, LF Matt Holliday.
The Cardinals have large interest in keeping Holliday and DeRosa and some interest in Smoltz. The others probably are gone.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Ryan Ludwick, 2B Skip Schumaker.
Schumaker will make more as a second baseman than an outfielder. Ludwick likely will get close to $7 million and might have to be traded for payroll relief if Holliday signs a multiyear deal.
IN LIMBO: OF Ryan Ludwick, a candidate to be traded last year, could be dealt this time. RHP Josh Kinney, a playoff hero in 2006, probably won’t return.
MEDICAL WATCH: 3B Mark DeRosa (left wrist surgery in October 2009) should be ready for spring training. 1B Albert Pujols (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) should be back at full strength for spring training.