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News » Springer looks unlikely to return Cardinals decide against offering arbitration to their eight free agents.

Springer looks unlikely to return Cardinals decide against offering arbitration to their eight free agents.

Springer looks unlikely to return Cardinals decide against offering arbitration to their eight free agents.
The likelihood of veteran reliever Russ Springer's return to the Cardinals greatly diminished Monday when the club declined to offer arbitration to him and its other seven free agents.

Citing a need to maintain roster flexibility and a crush of returning righthanded relievers, general manager John Mozeliak thought the risk of Springer being awarded a big contract in arbitration was not worth the reward - two premium draft picks - the club would have received had Springer turned down arbitration and signed elsewhere.

Last season, Springer compiled a 2.32 ERA and allowed 57 baserunners in 50 1/3 innings spread over 70 appearances.

"Obviously, Russ did a great job for us the past two years," Mozeliak said. "But one place we do have plenty of depth is on the right side of the

bullpen. Up until this point we haven't been able to address any of our glaring needs, and right now those remain our priority."

In addition to Springer, the Cardinals declined to offer arbitration to starting pitchers Braden Looper and Mark Mulder; relievers Ron Villone and Jason Isringhausen; infielders Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis; and outfielder Juan Encarnacion.

Springer, 40, loomed as the Cardinals' most complicated case. Among NL pitchers with at least 60 appearances, only Philadelphia Phillies closer Brad Lidge (1.95) and Colorado Rockies reliever Taylor Buchholz (2.17) crafted a lower ERA. Re-signed for $3.5 million last year, Springer was considered something of an extravagance after manager Tony La Russa opted for Kyle McClellan over Springer in seventh- and eighth-inning roles. Springer worked 66 innings in 76 appearances in 2007 before last year becoming a fire-stopper in the middle of innings.

"I've been around long enough that nothing is new to me," said Springer, a rookie with the New York Yankees in 1992. "I realize it's business and sometimes you have to move on. I'm not bitter at all about it. I loved the last two years in St. Louis and, who knows, maybe we'll still work something out."

Offered arbitration, Springer, a "Type A" free agent, would have brought the Cardinals a first-round selection as well as another "sandwich" pick between the first and second rounds of next year's draft if signed by another club.

Isringhausen also achieved Type A status but did not receive an offer of arbitration after requiring season-ending surgery to repair a flexor tendon near his right elbow. The Cardinals are weighing whether to bring back their longtime closer with a one-year, incentive-based contract.

Springer is expected to be in high demand now that signing him does not cost picks in next year's draft. His former team, meanwhile, can construct the right side of its bullpen from a list including Chris Perez, Jason Motte, Josh Kinney, McClellan, Brad Thompson and veteran Ryan Franklin.

"It came down to making some tough decisions as we go through this," Mozeliak said. "But we do have plenty of young righthanded relief pitching."

A failure to offer arbitration to Looper registered as a mild surprise. After making a $5.5 million base salary last season, Looper is seeking at least a three-year deal as a free agent. It appeared unlikely Looper would have accepted the Cardinals' arbitration offer by Sunday's deadline. A "Type B" free agent, Looper would have brought the Cardinals a supplemental pick if offered arbitration.

The Cardinals currently list 36 players on their 40-man roster. A player is immediately added if he accepts an offer of arbitration.

Yet to make a move since re-signing free agent back-up catcher Jason LaRue, Mozeliak referred to a slow-moving market when saying, "I'd hate to do something now that would prevent us from making a move after Dec. 7."

Mozeliak arrives in Las Vegas on Sunday for Baseball's winter meetings and acknowledges his course will be affected by the outcome of a nerve conduction test performed later this week on ace Chris Carpenter.

"It's going to give us a pretty good idea whether Carp's making real progress or not," said Mozeliak, speaking of Carpenter's recovery from a season-ending nerve condition that affected muscles supporting his right shoulder. "If it's something we need to protect for we may have to do something sooner than later. If it's encouraging, it buys another month."

The Cardinals are not among "nine or 10" teams that have expressed interest in five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, according to Johnson's agent, Barry Meister. Johnson, 45, is seeking a one-year deal after the Arizona Diamondbacks publicly renounced interest in re-signing the 295-game winner.

The Cardinals also learned Monday that minor league infielder Wilfred Vivas received a 50-game suspension to be served next season after testing positive for metabolites, a banned substance under MLB's minor-league drug policy.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 3, 2008

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