ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have elected to exercise their club option on Jeff Suppan for 2006, according to the right-hander's agent.
That puts four of the five members of St. Louis' 2005 starting rotation under the team's control for 2006, and answers one of the questions facing the club entering the offseason. Suppan's option is worth a reported $4 million, and the club could have bought it out for $1 million. Club representatives were unavailable for immediate comment on Wednesday evening.
Suppan has enjoyed two strong seasons since signing with the Cardinals before the 2004 season. He's 32-19 in a St. Louis uniform, posting ERAs of 4.16 in 2004 and a career-best 3.57 in 2005. He also showed himself to be an excellent big-game performer, pitching the clinching games of both the Division Series and National League Championship Series in 2004.
In a pitching-thin free-agent market, Suppan would likely have rated as one of the better prizes of the year. He has tossed at least 188 innings in each of the past seven seasons, and has had the three best campaigns of his career over the past three years. Instead, he will return for a third year in a Cardinals uniform.
Chris Carpenter signed a new multiyear deal with the Cards early in the '05 season, and Mark Mulder's 2006 option vested in September. Jason Marquis remains unsigned for 2006 but is not yet eligible for free agency, so he remains the property of the Cardinals. The only member of the '05 rotation that is not under the team's control is Matt Morris, who has filed for free agency.
Should Morris depart, the Cards could look to a veteran free agent, or they could turn to top prospect Anthony Reyes, who impressed in a spot start and three relief appearances down the stretch.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.