Former teammates on the 2000 Louisiana State team that won a national title, Ryan Theriot and Brian Tallet were reunited, care of the Cardinals, on Tuesday. The Cards patched holes in both their middle infield and their bullpen, sending Blake Hawksworth to the Dodgers to land Theriot and signing free-agent lefty Tallet to a one-year, $750,000 deal. Theriot, who turns 31 next week, is quite familiar with the Cards, and vice versa. Theriot spent parts of the last six seasons with the Cubs, who dealt him to the Dodgers at the Trade Deadline this past summer. Combined between the two stops, Theriot posted career lows in batting average (.242) and OPS (.606) with two homers, 15 doubles and 29 RBIs in 150 games. He played primarily at second base, with 29 games at short for the Cubs.
Before 2010, Theriot served as the Cubs' regular at short from 2007-09. So his presence gives the Cardinals some of the middle-infield flexibility they had been searching for. "This is not necessarily the last move we're going to make between now and Opening Day," general manager John Mozeliak told reporters, "but if we did have to start today, he would likely be our shortstop." But he could also end up at second, if the Cards find a better option for short this winter. All Theriot knows is that he doesn't want a bench role. "I don't want to be that utility player," Theriot told reporters on a conference call. "I want to be out there playing. I can't help a team if I'm sitting on the bench." With Theriot on board, the Cards are expected to entertain trade offers for last year's starter at short, Brendan Ryan, who hit just .223 in 2010. Ryan might end up becoming a utility man if a trade isn't worked out. In 663 career games, Theriot has hit .284 with a .348 on-base percentage. At Busch Stadium, he's hit .220 with a .524 OPS. Most of Theriot's experience has come in the No. 1 or No. 2 spots of the lineup, and the Cardinals have a need at the top of their order. Theriot, though, would obviously have to improve upon his .323 OBP from 2010 if he is to be much of a weapon in the leadoff spot. He told reporters he suffered from a position switch to second base when the Cubs gave their starting shortstop job to Starlin Castro last season. Theriot's best season was in 2008, when he turned in a .307/.387/.359 slash line for the National League Central-winning Cubs. He's stolen at least 20 bases each of the last four seasons. The Dodgers no longer had a need for Theriot in the wake of signing Juan Uribe, whom the Cards reportedly had interest in. The Cardinals will have two seasons of contractual control of Theriot before he's eligible for free agency, though he'll likely be due a raise in arbitration from the $2.6 million he made last year. As far as what the Cards gave up to get Theriot, Hawksworth, who posted a 4.98 ERA in 90 1/3 innings this past season, was one of many right-handed relievers in the mix, and he's out of Minor League options. The Cards were in greater need of help out of the bullpen from the left-hand side. Enter Tallet, who was released by the Blue Jays last month. The 33-year-old Tallet was arbitration-eligible after making $2 million in 2010, and the Jays didn't deem him fit for a raise after he suffered through a 6.40 ERA, a 1.578 WHIP and 20 homers allowed in 77 1/3 innings over 34 games. Tallet, who was drafted by and made his debut with the Indians, was traded to the Jays before the 2006 season and spent the majority of his five seasons in Toronto in a relief role. He did, however, make 25 starts in '09 and five starts last season. All told, he is 16-23 with a 4.65 ERA in 223 appearances, including 36 starts, in his Major League career. The Cards will employ Tallet as their situational lefty, replacing free agent Dennys Reyes. Tallet becomes one of only three left-handers on their 40-man roster. Left-handers hit just .176 off him last year. Theriot and Tallet have been champions together before, and the Cards hope that's the case again.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.