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Cardinals finalize deal for Greene

Cardinals finalize deal for Greene

ST. LOUIS -- In a slow-moving market, the Cardinals are acting quickly. St. Louis answered the biggest question in its 2009 lineup on Thursday, trading for Padres shortstop Khalil Greene. A day earlier, the Cards signed reliever Trever Miller to a one-year contract.

The Redbirds announced the trade on Thursday evening after a day of reports and speculation. St. Louis will send relief prospect Mark Worrell and a player to be named later to San Diego.

Greene replaces Cesar Izturis, who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent last offseason, but will be allowed to depart via free agency. Greene is considered a plus defensive shortstop and has typically -- though not in 2008 -- been a potent offensive threat as well.

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"Clearly, he had a tough year last year, but historically he's produced," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. "We really felt this was a situation where we had an opportunity to really improve. He's obviously an above-average defensive player, as well. So it seemed like a great fit. It came about very quickly and we really are excited about the opportunity we have today."

Greene's departure from San Diego had appeared to be a fait accompli for quite some time. He expressed enthusiasm at a fresh start following a 2008 that was well below his standards.

"I am both excited and honored to have a chance to play and contribute for such a storied franchise as the St Louis Cardinals," Greene said in a release issued by St. Louis. "The tradition in St Louis speaks for itself and I am hopeful to be a strong contributor for the Cardinals.

"Also, I would like to thank the San Diego Padres, the city and fans of San Diego for the opportunity to play in San Diego for five-plus seasons. The fans of San Diego will be missed and I appreciate their support through not only the great times but also thru the down times. I can't wait until April gets here."

It's the second deal consummated between the two teams in less than a year. On Dec. 15, 2007, the Padres acquired Jim Edmonds for Minor League third baseman David Freese. That deal looks like a winner for St. Louis, as Freese has emerged as one of the organization's better prospects and the club got excellent production from its outfield, even after Edmonds' departure.

Greene will make $6.5 million in 2009, with the Cardinals on the hook to pay all of it. St. Louis would thus be left with approximately $10-15 million more in payroll room to find a second baseman and perhaps another starting pitcher and/or another left-handed reliever. Greene will be eligible for free agency after the 2009 season.

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In a frustrating final year in San Diego, Greene hit .213 with a .260 on-base percentage and a .339 slugging percentage in 2008 -- easily his worst full season in the Major Leagues. He managed 10 home runs and 35 RBIs in 105 games, but that was a far cry from his previous output.

Just a season earlier, Greene hit 27 home runs, drove in 97 runs and slugged .468. For his career, Greene has hit .228 with a .292 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage at pitcher-friendly PETCO Park, while putting up a .270/.318/.484 line in road games.

Mozeliak pointed to the change in ballparks as one reason for the Cardinals' optimism regarding a rebound by Greene. Busch Stadium tends to be a pitchers' park, as well, but not to the extreme degree that PETCO Park is.

"There's a lot of things we feel could do that," Mozeliak said.

The Cardinals are hoping Greene will be an offensive upgrade over Izturis, a slick fielder who batted .263 with a .319 on-base percentage, one homer and 24 RBIs in 135 games as the starting shortstop last season.

Greene missed the final two months of 2008 with a broken hand, an injury that he suffered when he punched a storage unit. That injury, however, is not expected to have any impact on his 2009 spring or season.

Worrell, who will turn 26 in Spring Training, was a 2004 draftee by the Cardinals and spent the past two seasons at Triple-A Memphis. He posted a 7.94 ERA in very limited exposure in his first shot at the Major Leagues last year.

The submarining right-hander posted dominating numbers in his second season at Triple-A, striking out 80 in 58 2/3 innings, though he also walked 31. He saw limited opportunities in the Majors, though, not receiving a September callup in 2008. Some in the organization had reservations about how his skill set would translate to pitching in the Majors, and he was passed on the depth chart in recent years by Chris Perez, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan.

Just as the trade was first being reported, Worrell expressed his frustrations with the organization in an interview with Scout.com.

"To be quite honest with you, I was hoping they would get rid of me," Worrell told Scout.com. "I would like to be given a fair chance. They haven't given me a fair chance at all. Every year, I've put up great numbers, out-battled my competition, and up to this point I have nothing to show for it but 13 days in the big leagues. With almost any other team, I think I would have had a real shot."

A Cardinals source said it was merely coincidental, though, that Worrell was dealt in the wake of the comments.

The other player may not be named until the end of Spring Training. According to Padres general manager Kevin Towers, San Diego will choose from a list of three players, two of them pitchers.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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