Cards upgrade rotation at Winter Meetings

Cards upgrade rotation at Meetings

INDIANAPOLIS -- They didn't bag their biggest target, but the Cardinals headed home on Thursday afternoon with a pretty good consolation prize.

Amid incessant talk about star outfielder Matt Holliday, St. Louis added starting pitcher Brad Penny on Monday, shoring up one of its top areas of need this winter. It marked the first time since 2005 that the Cardinals completed a Major League transaction at the Winter Meetings -- save for the Rule 5 Draft.

And speaking of the Rule 5, the Cards also added some left-handed depth, which had been a minor need, but nonetheless, a goal for the offseason. Still, it's no secret that the primary aim remains unfulfilled. Holliday is still a free agent, and his status with the Cardinals is still unresolved.

General manager John Mozeliak had a second meeting with agent Scott Boras regarding Holliday before leaving, but didn't express much enthusiasm over what transpired. Asked if the encounter was valuable, Mozeliak dryly replied that "all meetings are valuable."

The Cardinals did decline to set a deadline for a resolution with Holliday's camp, but the time is coming. Most of their alternative targets remain available, though, and as long as they are, the club can continue to engage with -- or wait on -- Holliday.

Thus, the next week or two will be every bit as pivotal in building the 2010 Cardinals as the past four days have been. The club must either work out a deal with Holliday or add one or two other pieces to their starting lineup -- such as Mark DeRosa, who remains a name of interest for St. Louis. While a run on Holliday from other clubs could accelerate the process, so could serious activity between DeRosa and another team.

The equation at this point remains fairly simple. As long as the Cardinals believe that all of their alternatives are in place, they can wait. Once that ceases to be the case, the situation with Holliday will need quick resolution.

Besides the lineup, the Cardinals may also be looking at another addition to the starting rotation to go with Penny, and they'd also like to make some upgrades to their bench. Moves like that, however, may wait until after Saturday's non-tender deadline. The Cardinals do not expect to non-tender any players.

The work continues as soon as they get home.

"Obviously, getting Penny signed accomplishes one thing," Mozeliak said. "And having a much better idea of what this market looks like and what individual expectations are, I think we have a better feel for it. [But] with the exception of Penny, we still have work to do to put this team together."

Deals done: The Cards signed Penny to a one-year contract worth a guaranteed $7.5 million.

Rule 5 activity: The Cardinals selected left-hander Ben Jukich from the Reds. The Cubs took right-hander Mike Parisi from the Cardinals system.

Goals accomplished: The Cardinals added a starting pitcher, their second priority behind re-signing Holliday.

Unfinished business: The offense remains un-upgraded. Whether it be Holliday or some combination of other pieces, the Cardinals know they must still make a move or two to improve the lineup. Another starting pitcher is also on the radar, as is bullpen and bench help.

GM's bottom line: "It was productive. From a timing standpoint, we used our time well and I think we have a pretty good idea of what the next steps look like. I'm hopeful that we can continue to work to build our club. We'll continue to do that tonight." -- Mozeliak

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