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Westbrook is free agent after Cards decline option

Westbrook is free agent after Cards decline option

Westbrook is free agent after Cards decline option

ST. LOUIS -- As expected, the Cardinals have declined their 2014 mutual option on Jake Westbrook. That option would have paid Westbrook $9.5 million next season. Instead, the Cards will cover the $1 million buyout and allow Westbrook to enter free agency.

This mutual option was attached to the one-year contract Westbrook signed in August 2012.

Westbrook has known for some time that he did not fit into the Cardinals' future plans. After a strong start to the 2013 season, the righty landed on the disabled list in mid-May with right elbow inflammation. He returned to the mound and rotation a month later but never had the same effectiveness. Westbrook trudged through some tough summer months, endured a second DL stint because of a back strain and finished the season mostly unused in the Cards' bullpen.

Westbrook, 36, did not appear on any of the team's three postseason rosters. With the collection of young starting pitchers the Cardinals have, they did not need Westbrook next season.

Acquired by the Cardinals in a 2010 three-team Trade Deadline deal with the Indians and the Padres, Westbrook went 36-32 with a 4.27 ERA in 94 games (92 starts) with St. Louis. He posted a 4.63 ERA this year. Westbrook was a part of the Cards' 2011 World Series championship club, and the veteran right-hander made substantial contributions in helping a number of young pitchers find their footing in the Majors.

Westbrook becomes the Cardinals' fifth free agent, joining Chris Carpenter, Carlos Beltran, Rafael Furcal and Edward Mujica.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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