Cards turn down Phillies' trade proposal
By Joe Strauss
Of the Post-Dispatch
The silly season has begun early for the Cardinals.
With three weeks remaining before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies have inquired about the availability of pitchers Matt Morris and Steve Kline in exchange for a package including Kevin Millwood and former Cardinals infielder Placido Polanco. Sources from both organizations confirmed a recent discussion between Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty and Phillies GM Ed Wade.
Both sides described it as a proposal by Wade that gained no traction.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa tried to discredit the proposal as "something somebody made up during a rain delay" but didn't say whether it was concocted in a press box or an executive's suite.
Jocketty cited his policy of not addressing contract negotiations or trade talks but later added, "We're happy with what this team has done. I don't see a need to make a major change."
The Phillies scouted last weekend's series against the Oakland A's while a number of clubs have wondered whether Morris, the Cardinals' opening day starter and a pending free agent, could be had. Wade attempted to learn whether the Cardinals' longtime interest in Millwood might cause them to give up Morris, who has enjoyed a more productive season than Millwood despite an ebb in velocity and a vulnerability to home runs.
Millwood, who carries an $11 million tag, has six wins this season, four against the Montreal Expos.
The Phillies also know of Jocketty's affection for Polanco, whom he included in the July 2002 trade for third baseman Scott Rolen. All four players discussed are eligible for free agency after this season. Morris, who makes $12.5 million this season, is the most expensive player.
"I know Ed made a call but it went nowhere," a source familiar with the conversation said.
La Russa was concerned enough about the undercurrent surrounding the trade rumors that he addressed the matter with Morris and Kline before Friday night's series opener against the Chicago Cubs.
"I heard about it, but I didn't really get concerned," Kline said. "It didn't really seem to make a lot of sense for us."
Kline will earn $1.7 million this season. Last season his name surfaced in trade talks with the New York Yankees; however, he remains one of two lefthanders within the game's second-most productive bullpen. Kline has yet to surrender an earned run at Busch Stadium and has held lefthanded hitters to a .185 average.
Jocketty restated his belief in a sound clubhouse mix that should not be disturbed. "That's a big part of it," he said. "It's pretty remarkable how quickly this team seemed to come together with all the new faces. It's been that way since spring training."
Inquiries were made about righthanded starting pitcher Freddy Garcia and center fielder Carlos Beltran before they were dealt by the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, respectively.
Club sources have played down their interest in Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Kris Benson - considered among the most attractive targets for a deadline deal - but have inquired about Arizona Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson. So far, the Diamondbacks have indicated they will not deal the five-time Cy Young Award winner.
"If we had interest in a starting pitcher, it would have to be somebody better than one of our five right now," La Russa said. "Tell me who that is. And if there is an impact player available, what are the costs in dollars and prospects? And what about your team?"
Barring injury, the Cardinals are expected to pursue a corner outfielder or a righthanded reliever and are unlikely to part with a significant prospect or take on significant salary.