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News » Cards shift focus to free agent arms Pursuit of Peavy is off table as club considers shorter-term pitchers.

Cards shift focus to free agent arms Pursuit of Peavy is off table as club considers shorter-term pitchers.

Cards shift focus to free agent arms Pursuit of Peavy is off table as club considers shorter-term pitchers.
LAS VEGAS - After briefly considering a dive into trade discussions for San Diego Padres ace Jake Peavy, the Cardinals have instead embraced a seismic shift in their pursuit of a pitching makeover.

Trades may be out, free agency in.

General manager John Mozeliak and much of the Cardinals' front office arrived at Baseball's winter meetings Sunday evening with the two-time defending NL Central champion Cubs the apparent favorite to add Peavy to an already imposing rotation.

Rather than attempt to hijack the potential Padres-Cubs deal by making available top prospect Colby Rasmus, Mozeliak plans to devote much of the next 48 hours to chatting up agents.

"I'd say there's been a fairly significant change in the last two days," Mozeliak said. "Some of the things we thought might be available through trade may be more attainable in free agency."

The Cubs have emerged as heavy favorites to acquire the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner, offering as many as five players, including top prospect Josh Vitters, a Class A third baseman.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, may explore shorter commitments with free agent starters such as Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte, Randy Wolf and Brad Penny.

"There could be some opportunities that we didn't envision four weeks ago," Mozeliak said without specifying their identities. "There are certainly some avenues we hope to explore."

The Cardinals are not expected to pursue the free agent pool's bigger fish: CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. The Cardinals have committed a total of $85.1 million to Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright through 2011.

"Our preference is to stay shorter than longer," Mozeliak said.

Economic uncertainties are bringing the free agent market back to the Cardinals, who retain about $15 million to $17 million in payroll flexibility for next season.

In another shift, the Cardinals now intend to help preserve resources by retaining rather than trading second baseman Adam Kennedy.

The Arizona Diamondbacks retain interest in Kennedy, who requested that the Cardinals trade him shortly after last August's signing of infielder Felipe Lopez.

Mozeliak hoped to honor Kennedy's request as recently as two weeks ago when the two last spoke. However, greater reluctance to eat a portion of Kennedy's $4 million in a trade and the thin market for second basemen have led the club back to a player who liberally shared time with Aaron Miles, prospect Brendan Ryan and the itinerant Lopez the last two seasons.

"I have no problem going back there at all," Kennedy said Sunday. "Them bringing in a third party (Lopez) last season just emphasized a lack of confidence in me. I have no problem going back if it's to play. This is pretty much a career year for me. It just seems like the confidence has not been there on their part."

Kennedy says he retains a respectful relationship with manager Tony La Russa despite his issues with playing time.

Kennedy, who turns 33 before next season, says his "gut feel" is that he will be back in St. Louis and that he does not need to hear from La Russa to heal any bruised feelings.

"Tony manages how he feels that day, maybe," Kennedy said. "I don't look for any explanation from him. I've just got to play well."

After a miserable 2007 season ended with knee surgery, Kennedy played better in 2008, hitting better than .300 in four of six months before ending with an overall .280 average, 42 runs and 36 RBIs in 339 at-bats. He also exhibited greater defensive range. Kennedy's offensive numbers improved from a damning .219 average, 27 runs and 18 RBIs in 279 at-bats in 2007.

If Kennedy returns, the Cardinals are probably left only with modifying their pitching staff unless Mozeliak seeks to acquire another corner infielder for the bench.

Mozeliak and Padres general manager Kevin Towers last Wednesday finalized a trade that brought the Cardinals shortstop Khalil Greene for minor-league reliever Mark Worrell and a player to be named. The two executives also swung a deal last winter that sent Jim Edmonds and $2 million for infield prospect David Freese. However, Mozeliak said Sunday that he does not have a meeting scheduled with the Padres.

If the Cardinals address a need for another lefthanded reliever, it apparently will not be for Arthur Rhodes, who failed to receive an improvement over the Cardinals' initial one-year offer.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 8, 2008

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