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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

Low-cost pitching options abound for Angels

The question is how long they’re willing to wait out the likes of C.J. Wilson and Ryan Madson. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out on Monday — Day 1 of the Winter Meetings — new general manager Jerry DiPoto plans to meet with Wilson’s agent here in Dallas. Frankly, why wouldn’t he? The real question is whether it’s possible — or even practical — for the Angels to fork over most of their remaining payroll on one arm, to address the best aspect of the team no less.

If they don’t want to go that route, or commit to Madson — remember, the Phillies reportedly offered four years at $44 million — there are a few low-cost options to be had.

Starting pitcher-wise, Mark Buehrle is the logical fit. Problem: A lot of teams want him, and he’s said to be looking for a no-trade clause as part of at least a three-year deal. Some other lefties to keep in mind: Jeff Francis (4.82 ERA in 31 starts for the Royals last year), Erik Bedard (3.62 ERA in 24 starts for the Red Sox and Mariners) and Paul Maholm (3.66 ERA in 26 starts for the Pirates).

As for the right-handed bullpen arms, there are plenty from which to choose. The most intriguing may be Octavio Dotel, because of how well he pitched down the stretch for the World Series-champion Cardinals and because of his experience as both a setup man and closer. Dotel (38) shifted from a Type A free agent to a Type B under the new CBA, so he won’t cost the team that signs him a Draft pick.

Some others: LaTroy Hawkins, Francisco Cordero, Takahashi Saito, Frank Francisco, Mike MacDougal, Scott Linebrink and Luis Ayala, among a host of others.

– Alden Gonzalez

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

Dodgers reportedly eyeing Kennedy

In need of a versatile presence for their infield with the departure of Aaron Miles, the Dodgers have contacted Adam Kennedy’s representatives, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Kennedy has Southern California roots and has been a travelin’ man since leaving the Angels in 2007 for the Cardinals after seven seasons as their second baseman.

Kennedy, a high school star in Riverside, Calif., before becoming a postseason star for the 2002 World Series champion Angels, has played first and third base as well as second in recent seasons for the Athletics, Nationals and Mariners. He’s a .272 career hitter with a .326 OBP and .385 slugging mark across 13 Major League seasons.

Kennedy, who turns 36 on Jan. 10, hit .234 in 114 games for Seattle in 2011. Twice a .300 hitter with the Angels, he is best known for his three-homer epic in the ’02 ALCS against the Twins.

The Dodgers acquired Mark Ellis as their new second baseman, joining James Loney, Dee Gordon and Juan Uribe in the projected infield. Kennedy is highly regarded as a tough-minded, positive clubhouse presence. – Lyle Spencer

Mets, Cards in the running for Dotel

The Mets are strong players for right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions. Dotel, who celebrated his 38th birthday last week, posted a 2.61 ERA for the Cardinals in October after compiling a 3.28 ERA, 32 strikeouts and five walks for St. Louis in 24 2/3 innings this season.

A former closer who saved 21 games for the Pirates in 2010, Dotel could potentially assume that same job in New York or slide into a setup role. General manager Sandy Alderson has not ruled out signing more than one free-agent reliever to bolster the back end of his bullpen.

But the Mets are not the only team wooing Dotel . The Cardinals have also expressed interest after the 13-year veteran played a significant role in their World Series run following a midseason trade from Toronto.

The Mets have made it clear that they have no desire to give up compensatory Draft picks in order to sign ranked free agents, which originally precluded them from pursuing Dotel. But Dotel’s Elias ranking was recently reduced from Type A to Type B as part of baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, meaning the Mets would not have to give up a Draft pick to sign him. The Cardinals did not offer Dotel arbitration, but will receive a supplemental-round pick should he sign elsewhere.

As for the Mets, they have already missed out on Joe Nathan and Jonathan Broxton, two former closers coming off injuries who signed with the Rangers and Royals, respectively. Still, plenty of closer candidates remain at large, including Dotel, Brad Lidge, Matt Capps, Frank Francisco and Francisco Cordero.

The Mets originally signed Dotel as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1993. He made his Major League debut for them as a starting pitcher six years later, before making his career as a reliever with the Astros, A’s, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals.

–Anthony DiComo

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

Mozeliak talks trades

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak addressed reporters on the field at Busch Stadium on Tuesday prior to his team’s game against the Astros. He declined to give any kind of percentage guess as to his club’s chances of getting a deal done by Sunday afternoon, but he did offer a few insights into where the Redbirds stand five days before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The Cards have made it clear all along that pitching is their priority, without specifying what sort of pitching. Mozeliak said Tuesday that things may be narrowing a bit in that regard.

“We’re still exploring both [starters and relievers],” he said. “But when it comes down to it, I think the reliever market’s got more opportunities.”

He also acknowledged that left-handed relief is one specific area where St. Louis could upgrade, but warned reporters not to “overweight” that need.

As for money, the Cardinals certainly aren’t looking to take on extra payroll, but they’re in a position where they could. It’s something of a sliding scale, where the better the prospects a team gives up, the less money it may have to take on. But if it comes to it, and the Cardinals need to add to their payroll, they could.

“There’s a spectrum of things that are occurring, and that’s some of the equation,” Mozeliak said.

That could, conceivably, even include adding to the 2012 payroll, though that’s much more complicated than 2011, given the uncertainty surrounding Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter among others.

The Cardinals also have five starters (Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Kyle McClellan and Adam Wainwright) under team control or under contract for 2012, plus the potential to bring back Carpenter. Still, Mozeliak said that doesn’t necessarily preclude them adding a starting pitcher who is under contract for ’12 — but reason dictates that it’s hard to envision that happening.

–Matthew Leach

Rumors Continue to Rumble for Rays

According to multiple reports, the Rays continue to listen to offers for B.J. Upton. Teams said to be interested include the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Royals, Nationals and Braves. However, while they are listening to possible deals, they aren’t willing to just give him away, which could lead to Upton finishing the season with the team.

Meanwhile, James Shields appears to be off the market, though according to CBSSports.com, right-handers Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are in play.

–Bill Chastain

Rasmus could be on White Sox radar

According to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, trade talks between the White Sox and Cardinals centering on left-handed hitting outfielder Colby Rasmus have “accelerated” in recent days.

The report talked about right-handed starter Edwin Jackson, who will be a free agent after the 2011 season, or left-handed reliever Matt Thornton as potential St. Louis targets. Jackson could be moved without weakening the current rotation, as the White Sox are working with six quality starters, despite Philip Humber’s brief move to the bullpen.

Thornton agreed to a two-year, $12-million extension, with a 2014 club option, during Spring Training. The White Sox have three lefties in the bullpen, with Thornton, Chris Sale and Will Ohman, and were impressed with the work turned in by southpaw Hector Santiago during his short 2011 Major League stint. They already are loaded in the outfield, though, as shown by the lack of room to promote hot-hitting Dayan Viciedo from Triple-A Charlotte.

Adding a talent such as the 24-year-old Rasmus would not lessen the White Sox pursuit in a very winnable American League Central but also could help fortify their future base.

When asked for comment Sunday about the matter, general manager Ken Williams told MLB.com via e-mail he will be available to chat on Monday after Ozzie Guillen’s pregame press session. Jackson, who earned the win in Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Indians, already had heard the rumor but took the trade rumblings in stride.

“My name is in trade rumors every year,” said Jackson, who has been traded four times. “It’s been like this for the last five years. It’s definitely nothing I worry about. I can’t control it. I just want to play wherever I’m wanted to play.”

The Cardinals know that even in a down year, Rasmus has significant value, and it’s difficult to envision them moving just to move him. His challenges in adjusting to the pressures of being the most hailed Cardinals prospect in ages are well-covered, but even so, he’s a young, high-ceiling, cost-controlled player at a premium position that has value.

Thus, while St. Louis is surely listening on Rasmus, actively shopping him is a separate question. And in any deal where Rasmus was moved, it’s hard to imagine the Cards wouldn’t get more than a rental starting pitcher. They would almost certainly need to get some kind of significant prospect or young, team-controlled player who could be a solution somewhere for a few years.

Still, Rasmus’ playing time has diminished as a result of his slump, and the Cardinals appear more and more comfortable with Jon Jay in center field. They also have Allen Craig on the mend from a knee injury, and though Craig is certainly not a center fielder, he would replenish the team’s outfield depth in the event of a move.

– Matthew Leach and Scott Merkin

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