Cardinals shaping roster for 2012

2011-12-13T00:35:00Z 2011-12-20T12:39:10Z Cardinals shaping roster for 2012BY RICK HUMMEL
December 13, 2011 12:35 am  • 

With the 11 p.m. deadline approaching for teams to offer 2012 contracts to arbitration-eligible players, the Cardinals and utililtyman Skip Schumaker agreed to a two-year deal on Monday night. Meanwhile, the club did not tender a contract to Ryan Theriot, a regular for most of the season at shortstop, making him a free agent.

The Cardinals did tender contracts to righthanded pitchers Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte, both of whom figure to be part of the Cardinals' bullpen for next season, with Motte slated to be the closer.

Schumaker, the Cardinals' 2011 regular second baseman who started Game 7 of the World Series in center field, would have been eligible for free agency after next season if he hadn't gotten the two-year deal worth a total of $3 million. He just completed a two-year deal worth $4.7 million.

The lefthanded-hitting Schumaker batted .283 in 117 games in 2011 and followed that by hitting .600 in 10 at-bats as the Cardinals bested the Philadelphia Phillies in the division series en route to their 11th World Series title.

General manager John Mozeliak said late Monday night that he envisioned Schumaker as a 'super utility" player and that most of Schumaker's time actually would be spent in the outfield, where he would provide coverage at all three positions. Daniel Descalso, who played mostly at third base this season in his rookie year, apparently will get first call at second base next spring.

Mozeliak, while acknowledging the 31-year-old Schumaker's versatility, also praised Schumaker for his off-field influence.

"He's really one of the leaders in the clubhouse," Mozeliak said. "He's one of the most respected players on the team."

With the re-signing of shortstop Rafael Furcal to a two-year extension, the official announcement of which is likely to happen today after the results of Furcal's medical tests become available, the likelihood that the club would retain Theriot, who made $3.3 million this year, diminished. The Cardinals already have Tyler Greene as a reserve infielder. In addition, Mozeliak has indicated a desire to re-sign veteran switch-hitting infielder Nick Punto, a late-season sparkplug once he recovered from a succession of injuries that limited him to 63 games in the regular season.

"When you look at us being able to bring back Furcal and trying to give significant playing time to Tyler Greene, it doesn't seem to be a time where (Theriot) was going to get adequate opportunities here," Mozeliak said.

Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Blake Hawksworth before last season, Theriot was the Cardinals' regular at shortstop until Furcal arrived from the Dodgers in late July. Once Furcal came, Theriot moved over to second base for most of his playing time and was a better defender there than he had been at shortstop, where he committed most of his 18 errors.

Theriot hit .271 with 47 runs batted in during the season, though as a leadoff man, his .321 on-base percentage wasn't good.

Perhaps his most important run batted in came Sept. 24 when Theriot didn't swing the bat at all. Theriot coaxed a bases-loaded, game-ending walk from Chicago Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol as the Cardinals rallied for two runs in the ninth inning for a 2-1 win, keeping their hopes alive for the wild-card berth they eventually snared.

If the Cardinals hadn't won that game, they would have trailed Atlanta by three games with four to play.

Motte, who threw the final pitch of the World Series and also the National League Championship Series, gained all nine of his regular-season saves from Aug. 28 on after manager Tony La Russa began giving him chances to close games. Before Motte had his first save, seven other Cardinals pitchers had recorded saves.

McClellan, who opened the season with five straight wins, wound up 12-7 with seven of his wins coming in relief.

Mozeliak still is believed to be seeking outfield and lefthanded bullpen help.

"We're working diligently to fill our holes," said Mozeliak, who said he didn't anticipate any more signings in the next 48 hours but possibly by the end of the week.

Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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