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Beltran deal done

The Cardinals have officially announced that they’ve agreed to a two-year deal with free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, pending a physical.

 

The deal is reportedly worth $25-26 million. That would be the largest outlay by the Cardinals to a free agent not already in the organization since Jason Isringhausen received a guaranteed $27 million before the 2002 season.

 

A switch-hitting outfielder, Beltran has one of baseball’s most well-rounded offensive games. He is a lifetime .283 hitter with both on-base ability (a career .361 average) and power (.496 slugging percentage). He’s one of the most efficient base-stealers in Major League history, with 293 steals in 334 attempts for an 87.7 percent success rate. In 2011, he put up a combined .300/.385/.525 line in 142 games with the Mets and Giants.

 

Beltran, a three-time Gold Glove winner in center field, moved to right field in 2011 as he made his way back to full strength from knee surgery. He will likely start the 2011 season in right field, with Lance Berkman moving to first base in place of Albert Pujols, while Allen Craig is out due to his own offseason knee operation.
Once Craig comes back, Beltran would probably still play plenty of right field. But he also could get more time in center field, spelling Jon Jay against left-handed pitchers and allowing new manager Mike Matheny a great deal of flexibility in making out his lineup.

 

–Matthew Leach

Cards may have clearer line on Pujols — UPDATED

The Cardinals’ path toward retaining Albert Pujols may be getting clearer. Multiple reports have indicated that the Miami Marlins are out of the pursuit for the three-time National League Most Valuabe Player, and while signs are that it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, it does appear that recent developments favor St. Louis.

A Major League source said flatly on Wednesday that the Marlins are not out of the bidding, and a second source said that “the door is not closed.” But Miami’s front office has begun pursuing other options, including an aggressive push for free-agent left-hander Mark Buehrle.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Marlins will not sign Pujols, but it has been clear for some time that Miami desired a quick resolution and is willing to move on if it is not able to reel in the superstar.

It’s unclear exactly how many clubs are in seriously on Pujols. Reports Tuesday night indicated the presence of a third team in the bidding, with a 10-year offer, but that team has not been identified publicly.

St. Louis presented a new offer to Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, on Tuesday. That offer reportedly reached 10 years, but a Major League source indicated that a deal of that length was never presented by the Cardinals.

–Matthew Leach

Cardinals make offer to Pujols

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Tuesday evening that his team has tendered a new contract offer to Albert Pujols. Mozeliak declined to provide any specifics on the offer, or to illuminate how or whether it differs from the club’s offer last winter to Pujols.

Still, it’s movement, and is believed to be the first offer the club has made since the season ended. Asked whether the ball was in the Cardinals’ court or that of Pujols’ camp, Mozeliak simply said: “theirs.”

The Marlins have reportedly made a 10-year offer to Pujols, and the two clubs appear to be the only serious suitors for the three-time National League Most Valuable Player at this time. Florida has aggressively stepped up its pursuit of Pujols since the Winter Meetings began.

Mozeliak told reporters that he has the impression that resolution on Pujols’ situation could well come sooner rather than later.

–Matthew Leach

Lohse on the block? Possible but hard to figure

If the Cardinals are looking to trade Kyle Lohse, it would be news to the right-hander. And that’s an issue.

According to a Twitter post by a Chicago Tribune reporter, St. Louis is “shopping” the veteran right-hander. The goal, it is claimed, would be to create room so that the Cards could sign St. Louis-area native Mark Buehrle. The Cardinals have five starters under contract for 2012: Lohse, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook.

Reached on Monday night, Lohse indicated that no trade discussions had been brought to his attention. That might not be newsworthy in some circumstances. But in Lohse’s case, the club would need to consult him before dealing him. The four-year deal that Lohse signed following the 2008 season includes blanket no-trade protection.

So while it’s conceivable that the Cards could follow through with that course of action, it would be exceedingly difficult. First they’d need to get Lohse to approve a trade, which is unlikely. Then they’d need to find an agreeable trade partner for Lohse and the $11.875 million he is owed. And even if they pulled all of that off, they would then still not be guaranteed of signing Buehrle, who has drawn quite a bit of interest this winter.

And they’d have to pull of this off while also trying to sign Albert Pujols, address their middle infield and upgrade their bullpen and bench. It’s not impossible. But it certainly wouldn’t be easy.

For what it’s worth, general manager John Mozeliak said Monday evening that starting pitching would not be a priority for the Cardinals this winter, whether or not they signed Pujols. He said that if the club needed to add a pitcher to its rotation, it would likely work from within, moving Lance Lynn or Marc Rzepczynski to starting work and then adding a reliever.

–Matthew Leach

Cardinals Monday tidbits

A few Cardinals tidbits:

* John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt met with Dan Lozano for about an hour, and Mozeliak expects to speak with him again tonight. Mozeliak did not go into much detail as to the pace or results of the talks, but acknowledged that he wouldn’t be surprised if things pick up with Albert Pujols and various teams in the next few days.

* Per Mozeliak, the club is not assuming it has any “last right of refusal” for another team’s offer to Pujols. He said he has not asked and team Pujols has not indicated.

* Jesse Sanchez reported earlier today that the Cardinals are one of five teams in the hunt for Octavio Dotel. However, Mozeliak indicated that there’s really not much movement with Dotel right now.

* Mozeliak reiterated that the Cardinals will not be adding a starting pitcher, even if they do not sign Pujols.

* The Cardinals have spoken with Pujols directly since the season ended, not just with Lozano.

* Mozeliak acknowledged that it’s unlikely — “not inconceivable,” but unlikely — that the club has BOTH Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot next year. One or the other could well return, but probably not both.

–Matthew Leach

Cards to meet with Team Pujols

Everyone has arrived in Dallas and it’s time to get down to business. That means, among other things, that the Cardinals will be meeting with Albert Pujols’ agent, Dan Lozano, on Monday afternoon. An industry source confirmed the scheduled meeting.

It’s unclear whether an offer will be tendered at this point, and in fact it’s not entirely clear whether any offer is currently on the table from the Cardinals to their signature player. The club offered a nine-year deal before Spring Training, and it is believed that no improvement upon that offer has been tendered since the season ended, but it’s not even certain that the original offer is still good.

The market for Pujols may gain clarity this week. The Marlins reportedly still intend to pursue the slugger despite significant expenditures on Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, and other clubs will have the opportunity either to make their interest known or to make it clear they are standing on the sidelines.

Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. told reporters on Monday morning that the club still hopes to sign Pujols.

“Obviously we’re going to make every effort to sign Albert and we hope we can make it happen,” DeWitt said. “This week seems to be the week that a lot of these things develop. We should know where we stand and if we don’t have a firm answer.”

–Matthew Leach

Mozeliak denies Pujols report

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak denied a report Wednesday afternoon that Albert Pujols is set to announce his return to the Cardinals.

J.C. Corcoran, a St. Louis radio personality, wrote on his personal Twitter account Wednesday:

“Albert to announce on Friday he’s re-signing with the Cardinals.”

ESPN’s Chris Singleton tweeted something similar a few minutes later, though it was unclear whether he was referring to Corcoran’s tweet or going off of other information. Singleton wrote:

“I’m hearing that Albert is going to resign in St. Louis. Stay tuned…”

Either way, though, Mozeliak poured cold water on any notion of a quick resolution to the Pujols talks. Reached by MLB.com to comment on Corcoran’s claim, Mozeliak had a three-word email response:

“No truth, zero.”

–Matthew Leach

Pujols, Marlins to meet

The wooing of Albert Pujols is about to get under way in earnest.

An industry source told MLB.com on Thursday that Pujols’ camp is scheduled to meet in Miami with the Florida Marlins within the next few days, possibly as early as Saturday. Pujols is a free agent for the first time after he and the Cardinals were unable to reach an agreement last winter.

Pujols, 31, is the biggest name free agent on the market this winter, but one of several that Florida (soon to be Miami) is considering. The Marlins move into a new ballpark next season, and their payroll is expected to increase dramatically.

They have already met with Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, and a Marlins contingent traveled to the Dominican Republic to see Cuban outfielder Yoennis Cespedes this week as well. The Marlins have Gaby Sanchez at first base, but Pujols is the kind of unique talent who could certainly cause a team to rethink what it has in-house.

The Cardinals are busy trying to hire a manager, and have wrapped up a first (and possibly only) round of interviews with six candidates. But general manager John Mozeliak said Wednesday that the manager search has not kept him from working on other matters, such as player personnel. It’s not known whether Pujols and the Cardinals have had any substantive conversations since the World Series ended.

–Matthew Leach

Furcal deal will happen

The trade sending Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals is not fully completed yet, but it will be. A Cardinals source said Sunday morning that “it will get done,” and Furcal cleaned out his locker on Saturday night. It’s not yet clear what the Dodgers will receive in return.

-Matthew Leach

Cards may, or may not, be done

The Cardinals have of course made their big move already this month, moving Colby Rasmus and acquiring three pitchers in an eight-player deal. They are not necessarily finished dealing, however.

Multiple reports have suggested they may still be pursuing a closer such as San Diego’s Heath Bell, though it appears that other clubs are well ahead of them on that front. The club could also use some middle infield help. Ryan Theriot is slumping and has some of the poorest defensive numbers of any shortstop in baseball, and top backup Nick Punto has just gone on the disabled list for the third time in 2011.

Enter the Dodgers, with whom the Cards have had conversations regarding Rafael Furcal. The two-time All-Star has missed much of the year due to injury, but he’s been playing better lately. The Dodgers won’t give Furcal away, but if a deal could be struck, he could be a highly intriguing addition to a team that’s clearly playing to win this year. The Cardinals could conceivably take on some salary, if they elected to receive cash rather than three players to be named later as the completion of their deal with Toronto.

Manager Tony La Russa left open the possibility that the Cards could make another addition, though he certainly didn’t play it up.

“I don’t know how to rate that,” he said. “I think ‘Mo’ [general manager John Mozeliak] is the only one that has the knowledge and the experience. I know there’s still days [until the non-waiver Trade Deadline], and there’s conversations. But I don’t know how to rate it. … I think he’s still got conversations, because he’s started a bunch of stuff and they keep it going.”

–Matthew Leach

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