10/27/2003 3:16 PM ET
Five Cardinals file for free agency
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
Brett Tomko filed for free agency on Sunday, one of five St. Louis players to do so. (Cardinals/Scott Rovak)
ST. LOUIS -- No team had more players file for free agency on Sunday, the first day of filing, than the Cardinals. And fewer than half of St. Louis' eligible players filed. It's going to be that kind of offseason.
Brett Tomko headed a list of five 2003 Redbirds who filed on Sunday, along with Eduardo Perez, Orlando Palmeiro, Miguel Cairo and Joe Girardi. Six other members of this year's team are eligible -- Steve Kline, Garrett Stephenson, Cal Eldred, Lance Painter, Russ Springer and Chris Widger.
Each of the five players who filed has been removed from the Cardinals' 40-man roster, and the team took advantage of the room. First baseman John Gall and pitchers Rhett Parrott and Chris Narveson have been added to the 40-man.
Beyond the free agents, the Cardinals also have to address their players with contract options, some of whom are sure to be set free as well. Chris Carpenter, Mike DeJean, Jeff Fassero, Sterling Hitchcock, and Fernando Vina all have club options for 2004, and some of those options will not be picked up.
General manager Walt Jocketty recently said that those players are priority No. 1 for the team heading into this busy offseason. The team will sort through its various contract options and make decisions on whether to exercise them or buy them out, then it will move on to its free agents.
Vina and DeJean are the biggest question marks of the group. Vina's offensive performance has slipped the past two seasons, meaning the club may be leery to pay him upwards of $4 million. DeJean helped stabilize an inconsistent Cardinals bullpen after a trade from Milwaukee, but the market for relievers has changed dramatically in the last two years. His $2.5 million option is almost certainly more than pitchers of his ilk should expect to get in free agency this year.
Then there's Hitchcock, whose option -- valued at $7 million -- almost certainly prices him out of the Cardinals' reach. As with DeJean, however, the team might try to bring him back at a lower salary.
Among the free agents, Tomko has expressed a desire to return to St. Louis. He had a strange season, with an extremely tough first half followed by a strong stretch run. His return or departure will likely depend on what he will cost. The team loves bench players Perez, Palmeiro and Cairo. Perez in particular had an excellent 2003, serving as the primary power bat off the bench. Girardi may retire after an injury-shortened season. Widger seems much more likely to take the role as Mike Matheny's backup in 2004.
We either make ourselves happy or miserable.
The amount of work is the same.