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Jocketty wins GM of the year...and other stuff

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Jocketty wins GM of the year...and other stuff

Postby SaintsOfTheDiamond » Wed Nov 17, 2004 9:30 pm

I can't get it to link to the original for some reason. :-? Anyway, I don't have much a problem with this one either. I think Epstein could have just as easily won it, but I'm not arguing. ;-7

STLPD wrote:Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty earned recognition this week as Major League Baseball executive of the year from the Sporting News for turning a restricted payroll and a need for change into a 105-win league champion following the previous year's 85-win disappointment.

Now he gets to do it again.

The free-agent market officially opens Friday, when teams may bid on players other than their own. The Cardinals must fill two spots in their starting rotation and 75 percent of their renowned middle defense while projecting a payroll roughly equal to this season's $86 million. They must also fulfill the expectations that rose from the popular pick to finish third in the NL Central this season to next season's early-line NL favorite.

Hardly bashful about their desire for a signature starting pitcher, the Cardinals have revisited the availability of trading for Arizona Diamondbacks lefthander and Cy Young Award runner-up Randy Johnson. They also have jumped into a pool of at least eight teams interested in free-agent righthander Pedro Martinez.

The price tag for pitchers of such quality would limit Jocketty's flexibility in fleshing out a team that includes high-priced talent Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Jason Isringhausen, Larry Walker and Albert Pujols.

Leftfielder Reggie Sanders' contract doubles from $2 million to $4 million next season, while 16-game winner Jeff Suppan will receive $5 million after representing a steal this year at $1 million.

Not all expenses are obvious. Isringhausen's salary is listed at $9.25 million for 2004, the final guaranteed year of the deal signed before the 2001 season. However, Isringhausen has allowed the Cardinals to postpone payments on his last two seasons, leaving him due roughly $12.5 million in 2005.

Jocketty has said little about the possibility of a trade again serving as the catalyst for the team's winter activity. By trading outfielder J.D. Drew and utilityman Eli Marrero last December to the Atlanta Braves, Jocketty not only acquired important pitchers Jason Marquis and Ray King, he gained enough financial flexibility to restructure the bullpen and sign Suppan.

The Cardinals have expressed little desire publicly to retain their free-agent starting pitchers, Matt Morris or Woody Williams, as they seek a greater power presence for a rotation that literally lived on the edge last summer. Dan Haren and Rick Ankiel are projected as part of next year's staff but in the bullpen rather than the rotation. Ankiel, who pitched solely out of the bullpen in September, is scheduled to report this weekend to the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he is expected to start.

Kevin Millwood intrigued the Cardinals while with the Philadelphia Phillies. Chicago Cubs free agent Matt Clement is a hard thrower who defeated the Cardinals three times in a span of 39 days this spring, but some question whether his make-up fits the mold of a staff ace.

Lefthander Carmen Cali was impressive enough that the Cardinals believe they have little need to retain free-agent reliever Steve Kline, set to undergo surgery today for repair of a partly torn flexor tendon in his left index finger.

The club was impressed enough by Mike Lincoln's 13 appearances before he had ligament replacement surgery that they might seek to retain the arbitration-eligible righthander. The status of free agent Cal Eldred is less clear after manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan refused to expose him in the first two rounds of the postseason. Julian Tavarez is signed for next season and is due to receive a bump from $1.6 to $2.6 million.

The club has not modified its 8-month-old, one-year offer to Gold Glove catcher Mike Matheny since spring training and might be prepared to commit to rookie Yadier Molina. Shortstop Edgar Renteria and second baseman Tony Womack will begin negotiating with other suitors Friday.

Skepticism exists whether Renteria will command a $10 million average annual salary, which might lead the Cardinals to take a more patient approach to talks. Christian Guzman and Orlando Cabrera are potential less-pricey alternatives.

Coming off arguably his best offensive season, Womack, 35, will explore the market as well. The Cardinals are listed among the potential pursuers of Jeff Kent; however, it is more likely they may return to former favorite Placido Polanco, whom they traded along with pitchers Bud Smith and Mike Timlin to the Philadelphia Phillies in July of 2002 for third baseman Rolen and minor league pitcher Doug Nickle.

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