Cardinals consider outfield options

Cardinals consider outfield options

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals would love to retain Matt Holliday's services. They liked him for a long time before they acquired him, and they gave up a lot to get him.

For the next two weeks, St. Louis has exclusive negotiating rights with its cleanup hitter, and the club would love to get something going in that time.

"We've made it clear that we're interested in engaging," Cardinals principal owner Bill DeWitt Jr. said recently.

Still, that doesn't mean it's going to happen. And in the event that Holliday heads elsewhere, the Cardinals are going to need another starting outfielder. It could conceivably be Allen Craig, who had a big year at Triple-A, but if the club had that much faith in Craig, he likely would have gotten a callup in September. Here's a look at some of the free-agent possibilities.

Jason Bay: He's the other big name on the market. He's also in an exclusive negotiating window with the Red Sox, who would like to keep him. But Bay would be a fantastic fit if he lands on the open market. He hits for a lower average than Holliday, but that tells just about none of the story. Bay has topped 30 homers in four of the past five seasons and has a career .376 on-base percentage.

He's a seriously productive hitter who has thrived in the National League Central. It's unclear what kind of interest Bay would have in playing in St. Louis, but he's clearly the next best option if Holliday bolts.

Xavier Nady: Another familiar face to the Cardinals, Nady had his best seasons playing in the NL Central. He's recovering from elbow surgery, which could be a concern -- but it could also keep his cost down.

Marlon Byrd: Once an exciting prospect, Byrd has come into his own in recent years in Texas. He's shown power and, at times, on-base ability. Moreover, as a right-handed hitter who can play center field, he might be able to spell Colby Rasmus in center against tough lefties.

Rick Ankiel: Manager Tony La Russa made comments at the end of the year that indicated that the club and Ankiel were likely to part ways. Still, somebody has to start in left field, and Ankiel has a lot of ties to the Cardinals. A long shot, but worth keeping in the back of your mind.

Mike Cameron: Offensively, he fits the bill. He still hits for power and gets on base. The problem is that he's still a center fielder, and a good one. There's little incentive for Cameron to come play a corner spot when he could play center instead.

Other familiar names include Randy Winn, Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero and Jermaine Dye. However, all seem like long shots. In Winn's case, his production fell off drastically in 2009. For the other three, playing in the American League, where serving as a part-time designated hitter is an option, is probably the best outcome.

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