Cardinals Offseason 2012: St. Louis Rumored In Roy Oswalt Negotations

The Cardinals have agreed to terms with relief pitcher Scott Linebrink.

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Roy Oswalt Rumors: Reports Conflict About St. Louis Cardinals And Free Agent Oswalt

The St. Louis Cardinals are rumored to be among the teams interested in the services of free agent SP Roy Oswalt. Oswalt was expected to announce his decision on Thursday, and he has reportedly told the interested MLB clubs that he will wait until midseason to sign with a team. However, it appears a number of sources still conflict as to whether the Cardinals are in the competition for the 34-year-old's services.


Related: St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Storyline Updates

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals may have a decent shot at nabbing the Wizard of Os:

Meanwhile, Tim McKernan of The Fan 590 AM reports the Cardinals are seemingly out of the Oswalt race:

The Jerry Crasnick report -- that Oswalt will wait until midseason -- appears to corroborate McKernan's source, but only time will tell. Oswalt pitched 139 innings in 2011, twice going to the DL with back issues. He sports a career 3.21 ERA and is perhaps the top free agent pitcher remaining on the market.

For more on the St. Louis Cardinals, head over to Viva El Birdos, SB Nation's Cards blog. Stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis for more breaking news and updates concerning all matters St. Louis sports, and MLB Daily Dish for all your MLB rumors and news.

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Roy Oswalt Rumors Stall With Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals

For a while, there, it seemed like Roy Oswalt had no shortage of suitors—the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers both seemed interested, and the Boston Red Sox had been rumored as suitors since before it was apparent the former Astros ace would have to settle for a one-year contract. Now, almost two weeks since the rumor mills incorrectly reported Oswalt had signed with the Cardinals, things have stalled so completely on all fronts that even the Philadelphia Phillies have been suggested as possible bargain-hunters.

Like most of the teams interested in Oswalt, the Phillies would have to move a pitcher they aren't interested in to free payroll, and since Joe Blanton looks harder to sell than either of the Cardinals' confounding pitchers it's tough to see them actually making a move to retain the fourth member of their infamous 2011 rotation.

But the simple fact that the possibility exists they might shows how far Oswalt has fallen, even since he looked like a bargain back in January. The market looks to have completely reset.

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2012 MLB All-Star Game: Tony La Russa To Manage NL All-Stars

The Hall-of-Fame-bound St. Louis Cardinals manager will make an encore in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.

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MLB Rumors: St. Louis Cardinals Still Playing Roy Oswalt Spoiler For Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have emerged as a primary contestant in the Roy Oswalt sweepstakes, but MLB rumors sites like MLBTR won't let the St. Louis Cardinals off the hook on signing a sixth starter that easily—they're still being run through as a potential spoiler in the Oswalt contest, which has gotten increasingly affordable in the last few months.

Current rumors suggest Oswalt might be as cheap as one year, $8.5 million, which would be hard to resist even though the Cardinals are already paying Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse more money than that to stand at the back of their relatively expensive rotation. Oswalt's coming off one of his least consistent seasons as a Major League starter, but he's still coming off a Roy Oswalt season—two walks per nine inning, at all costs.

Oswalt would be an upgrade for the Cardinals, but before they signed him they'd have to know they had someplace to shift Lohse or, more likely, Westbrook to somebody else who's willing to pay some of his salary.

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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Edwin Jackson Gets Cheap, But Not Cheap Enough For The Champs

The St. Louis Cardinals traded for Edwin Jackson in July knowing it would be a half-season fling—at the time Jackson, a free agent at 28, was expecting a five-year deal for far more than the Cardinals, with Kyle Lohse still in the fold and Shelby Miller on the way, would be willing to spend. Come January, 2012, and the rumor mill surrounding Jackson has found a tempo nearly as unbearably slow as his pitching—but no matter how cheap he gets, Jackson's unlikely to get cheap enough for his 2011 team.

Jackson's certainly better than Lohse or Jake Westbrook, the two starters pricing the Cardinals out of another starter's services in 2012. But starting pitching depth is less of a problem for the Cardinals now than it was when they signed both of those would-be fifth starters. Jaime Garcia was locked up long-term last year; Chris Carpenter was extended; Adam Wainwright's due back. And behind him sit some low-upside, here-right-now options—Lance Lynn and Marc Rzepczynski, cooling their arms in the bullpen—and some high-upside, here-in-a-few-years options—Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Tyrell Jenkins.

For all the right reasons, the Cardinals were just never in on their three-month rental permanently. That likely remains the case.

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MLB Rumors 2012: Francisco Cordero Squeezed In Relief Pitcher Shuffle

The St. Louis Cardinals should be no more interested in Coco than they were in Ryan Madson, his newly anointed Cincinnati Reds replacement, but if the MLB rumor mill is going to continue to connect them with every last right-handed reliever available Francisco Cordero remains the only name-brand option still on the board. And with the Reds taking the younger, better Madson for one year and less than $10 million, Cordero finds himself squeezed both in terms of market value and remaining bidders as Spring Training looms.

Looking at the back of Cordero's baseball card, nothing appears amiss as he enters his age-37 season; last year he saved 37 games with an ERA of 2.45. At 327 career saves with the Reds, Rangers, and Brewers he's second only to Mariano Rivera among active relievers, and he's three more years removed from being the sixth player ever to reach 400 saves.

But even a cursory look at his peripherals suggests all isn't well. Cordero's strikeout rate has slide from an extended peak over 10 per nine innings to just 5.4 in 2011, and although that also came with a newly sedate walk rate and his usual ability to keep home runs off the board it's a bad sign for an aging closer with the usual closer repertoire. On a one-year deal Cordero's unlikely to pitch badly enough to lose whichever job he gets, but he's equally unlikely to provide the value any team—including the Cardinals—thinks they're paying for.

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MLB Rumors 2012: Ryan Madson Talk Won't Stop For St. Louis Cardinals

I'm going to be honest: I find the idea that the St. Louis Cardinals would spend closer money on Ryan Madson—who nearly signed an enormous deal with the Philadelphia Phillies to open free agency and has seen his stock fall ever since—only a little less plausible than that bizarre rumor about the Cardinals signing Roy Oswalt as a reliever. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe sees it differently, suggesting St. Louis could take this opportunity to upgrade their bullpen with Madson's price in decline.

It's true that Madson would represent a not-insignificant bullpen upgrade for the Cardinals—he'd soak up innings that are currently going to the inconsistent Mitchell Boggs and the replacement-level-ish Kyle McClellan.

But Jason Motte secured his reputation as a relief ace with his postseason performance, and the Cardinals, anyway, have reached the point in their post-Pujols offseason hunt where most of the easily upgradable spots on the roster—the middle infield, the space in the outfield between Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Lance Berkman—have been filled by solid, expensive veterans. It seems unlike general manager John Mozeliak to sign still another one, unless Madson's value has fallen so far, so fast that he could be had for one guaranteed season.

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Carlos Beltran Signing Completes St. Louis Cardinals' Outfield Rotation

It’s not yet certain just how much center field Carlos Beltran is able to play, but pending a Spring Training that confirms it one way or another the St. Louis Cardinals have topped off their outfield rotation, a process that began the moment Albert Pujols’s departure sent Lance Berkman and his own balky knees back to first base. Depending on Beltran’s mobility Jon Jay should be anywhere from a third-and-a-half to a third-and-three-quarters outfielder, with Allen Craig getting starter-like at-bats once he returns from an offseason surgery.

It’s the perfect move for the Cardinals, who have Craig’s health to worry about in the early going—he’s expected by some to miss most of April, which is when Beltran might be relegated to right field—and the health of Berkman and now Beltran to watch for all season long. Just as they did before Pujols left, the Cardinals now have five starting-caliber hitters for four spots—and they intend, somehow, to start all of them.

If you saw the Cardinals’ disabled list activity last season you’ll know it’s not nearly so farfetched as it sounds.

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Carlos Beltran Signs 2-Year Deal With St. Louis Cardinals, According To Report

According  to a report from Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran has agreed to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals on a two-year contract. St. Louis emerged as a major contender for Beltran's services this week, though the club was cautious given the veteran's recent injury problems.

The Cardinals and Beltan’s agent, Dan Lozano, were able to finalize a deal Thursday evening. Beltran missed significant playing time in 2009 and 2010 as he recovered from knee surgeries, and the Cardinals wanted to understand more about his health before completing the deal. The Cardinals intensified their pursuit of the switch-hitter this week.

Beltran hit .300/.385/.525 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI last season, and if he can come close to duplicating that effort in St. Louis, it'll go a long way toward easing the transition into the post-Albert  Pujols era.

Stay tuned to SB Nation St. Louis for more information, and for in-depth analysis on the St. Louis Cardinals, be sure to visit Viva El Birdos or drop by Baseball Nation for more news and notes from around the league. Keep abreast of all MLB transactions and rumors at MLB Daily Dish.

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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Carlos Beltran Could Come Cheaper Than Expected

Spot the weird thing in this tweet about Carlos Beltran's contract demands, and then allow yourself one brief, dreamy moment of contemplation about Carlos Beltran in the St. Louis Cardinals' lineup—"Rockies signing Cuddyer closes out one option for Beltran," says Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, "Heard yesterday he has at least one offer for $10 million per year." 

Have you spotted the weird thing yet? Baseball sources are apparently surprised that a guy with an OPS+ of 152 last season has an offer on the table of at least $10 million per year. If Beltran is that cheap, the Cardinals—who already have two injury-prone sluggers, Allen Craig and Lance Berkman, with which to shuffle Beltran and keep Jon Jay in a major role—absolutely must pounce on their former NLCS nemesis.

If he's not that cheap—seriously, Josh Willingham just got three years at $7 million—the Cardinals should probably still pounce, especially if he'll go two years. But I'm surprised we're still having this discussion if Beltran isn't already getting $30 million deals. 

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MLB Rumors 2011: Carlos Beltran Still Makes Perfect Sense, St. Louis Cardinals Still Mum

Until Albert Pujols left the St. Louis Cardinals and turned this Hot Stove League over, the Cardinals and Carlos Beltran were best connected by Beltran's two-year stint as the team's worst NLCS nightmare, slugging .958 for the Houston Astros in the 2004 NLCS and .667 for the New York Mets in 2006, shortly before Adam Wainwright threw the most perfect curveball anyone has ever seen to get those entirely undeserving Cardinals into the infamous "Tigers in 3" World Series. 

Now, every Cardinals fan on earth wants Beltran on the Cardinals, which just shows how long a way one perfect curveball can go to rescue a damaged relationship. The bad news is that there's still no news on this front; the Cardinals are still in on him, but that's all we know. 

The good news is that he still makes a ton of sense for a Cardinals team looking to replace a lot of offense. With neither Allen Craig nor Lance Berkman likely bets to play full seasons, there will be plenty of plate appearances for everybody concerned even if Beltran is no longer able to play a full season in center field. And those plate appearances will be valuable, no matter where he is—Beltran's 152 OPS+ last year was a career high, and good for seventh in the National League. 

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MLB Rumors 2011: Yoenis Cespedes And Norichika Aoki Each Near Stateside Signing

The MLB Rumor mill is a little more confusing than usual this year, when it comes time for teams to sign solutions at center field. With Grady Sizemore returning to the Cleveland Indians and Carlos Beltran a likely right fielder, the two best bets at the position are each international players—Cuba's Yoenis Cespedes, star of history's greatest scouting video, and Japan's Norichika Aoki, the latest in the Ichiro line of dashing, undersized, line-driving singles hitters to come out of the NPB. Cespedes continues to draw looks across baseball, though concrete news has yet to break, while Aoki is about to be posted, if the latest reports are enough to go on.

Cespedes, 26, is nearly impossible to project—he has outstanding tools, and he looks like a baseball player, but league quality in Cuba is difficult to predict given the paucity of data coming from it.

Aoki, meanwhile, can be projected—Dan Szymborski recently tweeted he graded out at .287/.335/.379, per ZiPS—which means that teams will have to do nearly as much guesswork grading out the center field defense and baserunning skills that could leave him an average player or make him into a low-grade star at the position.

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St. Louis Cardinals Sign Skip Schumaker, Nontender Internet Goodwill

Just earlier today the St. Louis Cardinals in general and John Mozeliak in particular were basking in the remaining goodwill from a sizable minority of online Cardinals fans who lauded the team’s tough and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Albert Pujols as a sign that Mozeliak had taken control of the organization from the dugout, that the post-Tony-La-Russa era was underway. Less earlier today, all that goodwill evaporated at once when Derrick Goold broke the news: The Cardinals would be signing Skip Schumaker to a new two-year contract, avoiding, as Goold tactfully puts it, Schumaker’s first year of free agency.

So there’s that. Schumaker is actually coming off a surprisingly useful year, after his awful 2010; the lower offensive context across baseball in 2011 made his slap-happiness more useful than ever, and the extra 20 points of batting average he regained certainly didn’t hurt. But at 32 Schumaker can no longer be expected to improve at second base, and he was never a particularly good center fielder to begin with. In addition to being a defensive liability wherever he plays, then, he also duplicates both expected starters, now that the Cardinals have left-handed slap-hitters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso ahead of him on the depth chart.

Worst of all, online Cardinals fans will have to admit that all that white-slap-hitter angst they’ve been offloading to the ostensible scrapmaster Tony La Russa all this time wasn’t as clearly his fault as we expected.

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MLB Rumors 2011: St. Louis Cardinals Could Use Bench Bat, Manny Ramirez Probably Isn't It

It almost makes sense: With Albert Pujols gone, Lance Berkman starting at first base, and World Series hero Allen Craig injured, the St. Louis Cardinals are in real need of a backup outfielder who can hit—right now, from either of their backup catcher options all the way to potential non-tender Skip Schumaker, everyone on the bench hits like a middle infielder. The recently reinstated Manny Ramirez, regardless of his bizarre pseudo-retirement, can certainly hit. It fits. Almost.

The major issue is Manny-having-been-Manny's steroids suspension, which still applies because of the awkward legal fiction of his retirement; he last played well more than 50 games ago, but because he wasn't on a roster his suspension never began ticking.

It's all a little ridiculous—I liked Dan Szymborski's tweet, which compared the situation to Pete Rose's permanent ban—but them's the rules, and they keep the Cardinals from eying Ramirez as a Craig replacement in April.

Of course, there are other objections—I'm not sure Ramirez, a noted headcase who also played for the 2004 Boston Red Sox, would be welcome in relatively straight-laced St. Louis—but that's the big one.

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St. Louis Cardinals Free Agency: Rafael Furcal Signs Two-Year Deal Worth $14 Million

The St. Louis Cardinals have made their first free agency move since losing Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels earlier this week, and it’s—well, not exactly a doozy. Rafael Furcal is the newest old Cardinal, signing a two-year deal worth $14 million to be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop through 2013.

The Cardinals had earlier suggested they’d be okay with 2005 first-rounder Tyler Greene at shortstop, but his contact problems and Furcal’s afforability, not to mention the $20 million hole in their payroll, made the veteran move more likely. Greene is still likely to serve as Furcal’s primary backup at shortstop, with defensive whiz Ryan Jackson a year away at AAA Memphis.

Tyler Greene fans—they exist, and they have a blog—never fear: Given Furcal’s considerable injury history and Daniel Descalso’s left-handedness at second base, Greene, a tools-hound in need either of eyeglasses or a patch on the holes in his swing, is likely to see considerable time if he makes the team out of Spring Training. And maybe not even as a pinch-runner!

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MLB Rumors 2011: Michael Cuddyer Fits St. Louis Cardinals' Gaps, Kind Of

MLB rumor-mongers unite: The St. Louis Cardinals have $21 million more than you expected to spend this winter, and Hot Stove Leaguers plan on spending all of it. One ostensibly perfect fit: The Minnesota Twins' Michael Cuddyer, an above-average bat who is famous for standing in right field, third base, and even second base while being above-average. The Cardinals have an injured and unproven Allen Craig in right field, the perpetually injured David Freese at third base, and the perpetually unproven and left-handed Daniel Descalso at second base—voila! Another productive year as super-sub for Cuddyer.

The problems: First, some reports have Cuddyer already weighing a three-year, $24 million offer from the Twins, which is—well, not quite what the Cardinals should have in mind for a guy who isn't replacing any one player. Second, Cuddyer can stand at all those positions, but not very well—even in right field he's a below-average defensive player, and at second and third there is a clear reason that he spends most of his time in right field.

Cuddyer would be a great player on a one-year contract, or if he were average at any of his positions—but with neither of those things an option, the Cardinals should probably pass.

For more St. Louis Cardinals free agency rumors and updates, follow SB Nation St. Louis's Hot Stove League storystream for daily news and analysis.

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MLB Rumors 2011: Yu Darvish Is Still A Cardinals Pipe Dream

The St. Louis Cardinals might have $200 million more in their budget than they expected to have this time last week, but Yu Darvish—aside from Prince Fielder the biggest name left on the board—remains an unlikely solution for the Cardinals' newfound Pujols problem. The Japanese ace is better than Daisuke Matsuzaka, if his Greg Maddux impression in 2011 is any indication, but the Cardinals show no indication of being able or willing to put something like $40 million on the board just for the chance to negotiate for his services.

That said, there's a case to be made that they ought to be—given the inflation of pitching salaries this offseason, characterized by Mark Buehrle's $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins, and the deflation of Japanese import expectations following Dice-K's transformation into a nibbling injury victim, Darvish could theoretically end up a bargain for whichever team wins the bid. Fortunately or unfortunately, there's no indication yet that the Cardinals will be that team.

For daily St. Louis Cardinals news and analysis, follow SB Nation St. Louis's Hot Stove League storystream for up-to-the-minute-ish free agency rumors and updates.

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St. Louis Cardinals Rumors: Rafael Furcal Might Not Be Back After All

The St. Louis Cardinals ended the 2011 World Series with Rafael Furcal as the latest patch on a rough year at shortstop, but despite some immediate rumors to the contrary they might not begin the 2012 regular season with him standing there. Even after Albert Pujols's departure to the Angels, General Manager John Mozeliak has suggested that the Cardinals could stand pat with little-used first-rounder Tyler Greene as the likely starter in April of 2012.

Which would be great, if you like tools—Greene has the power to hit long home runs and more speed than anyone else in the system, which he combines with outstanding baserunning instincts. But he also has holes in his swing he's been unable to cover up in his limited Major League stints. He's an interesting guy as a utility infielder who might excel when pressed into more—but it would be a risk to put him in the Opening Day order, rather than as a first line of defense when Furcal's inevitable injury problems crop up.

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Albert Pujols Contract: Turns Out Money Was Important After All

Albert Pujols proved Thursday that making statements about free agent negotiations not being about the money—in any sport, for any person—is a bad idea, signing the Los Angeles Angels’ 10-year, $254 million deal instead of the St. Louis Cardinals’ final offer, which was apparently in the range of $210 million. Pujols had just finished rejecting the advances of the Miami Marlins, which were apparently both "creative"—in the potentially negative Chinese-curse sense—and worth even more than the Angels or the Cardinals’ offer.

So that’s it: Pujols is now an Angel—narrowly, as it turns out, the highest-paid Angel on the team, with Vernon Wells making a kind-of-hilarious $21 million a year after earning more than $26 million.

As for the Cardinals, expect a restrained approach to their newfound Pujols millions, at least in the early going—Jose Reyes, the most sensible choice for free agent rebound, as well as Jimmy Rollins and Mark Buehrle, the most frequently bandied-about choices, have all already been snapped up.

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