I was surprised they cut Simontacchi, I thought he could maybe serve in the same role as Haren this year when he moves to the rotation.
The parting won't become official until Dec. 7, but the Cardinals admit they have little desire to bring back free-agent righthander Woody Williams for a fifth season. They also concede their stated desire to import two power arms for the starting rotation may be overly ambitious.
General manager Walt Jocketty and pitching coach Dave Duncan underscored the desire for change earlier this week by referring to Williams, 38, in the past tense. Williams, 45-22 in 92 career appearances for the Redbirds, is all but certain to open the 2005 season elsewhere.
"I think that economics are as much a part of it as anything," Duncan said. "Probably when you think about Woody, he's another year older and he did have physical problems last year. You have to factor the risk."
The same applies to utility player Marlon Anderson after he was released earlier this week. Originally signed as a candidate to start at second base, Anderson eventually split time between second base and left field. His time at second base eroded as Tony Womack's playing time increased. His role in left field diminished gradually after the late May promotion of John Mabry and virtually evaporated after the August trade for Larry Walker.
The Cardinals also have released pitcher Jason Simontacchi, an 11-game winner as a 28-year-old rookie in 2002. He won nine games -mostly in relief - in 2003 before spending most of 2004 at Class AAA Memphis. Signed as a minor-league free agent and promoted after a string of injuries to the Redbirds' '02 rotation, Simontacchi began the 2004 season with career marks of 20-10 with a 4.74 ERA but pitched only 15 1/3 innings in 13 relief appearances for the Cardinals.
Williams completed a two-year, $14.9 million contract this season, going 11-8 with a 4.18 ERA after arriving at spring training with acute shoulder stiffness. He was 10-3 in his last 21 starts.
Williams won his first two postseason starts, received a no-decision in return for seven one-hit innings against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the NLCS, then was strafed by the Boston Red Sox for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Cardinals amassed the second-most quality starts in the major leagues last season, with Williams contributing 19. However, there was overwhelming sentiment in the organization after last month's World Series sweep that a more dominant arm was needed to balance the rotation.
The Cardinals have expressed interest in Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander Randy Johnson as well as free agents Pedro Martinez and Eric Milton.
"I think the job that Dunc did with those guys (in the 2004 rotation) was pretty remarkable," Jocketty said. "I don't think anyone expected four of those guys to win 15 games or more. A lot of that is due in part to what Dunc brought out of those guys. That's a pretty tough task to repeat. (Matt) Morris is gone. Williams is gone. We have to replace those two guys."
Some interest does exist in retaining Morris, who won 15 games and pitched at least 200 innings for the third time in four seasons during an inconsistent 2004. The Cardinals, who have no intention of offering Morris or Williams arbitration by the Dec. 7 deadline, might be interested in retaining their former ace if Morris entertained a one-year offer. Morris rejected the club's two-year, $15.5 million bid last January. Lower back and shoulder problems affected his velocity and mechanics for much of a 15-10 season that also included a career-high 4.72 ERA and 35 home runs allowed.
The Cardinals retain Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan, who accounted for 46 of the rotation's 74 wins. "Those are three good guys to build off of," Jocketty said. "We need one more guy for the top of the rotation."
Duncan and manager Tony La Russa want two proven veterans. Jocketty admitted that "in an ideal world we'd like to see that, but it may not be possible." The alternatives include looking at Dan Haren and Rick Ankiel as potential starters. Both were projected last month as candidates for the 2005 bullpen.
Vice president and special assistant to the general manager Bob Gebhard formally accepted a position Wednesday as Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager. Gebhard spent five years with the Cardinals.
"It was an extremely difficult decision to make. I really enjoyed my five years in St. Louis," Gebhard said. "I just felt this was a chance for me to get more into the involvement of the major league team."