Ex-Cardinals News: Mulder, Edmonds, Looper

In my opinion, one of the better sources of Hot Stove rumor mill information is a weekly Sunday column by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. In Sunday’s article, three ex-St. Louis Cardinals received prominent mention.

First up was the next chapter in the continuing and heartwarming Mark Mulder feel-good story, clearly designed to try to drum up a market for a pitcher that hasn’t been able to pitch effectively for at least the last two years.

More details were “leaked” about the current nature of Mulder’s infamous arm slot – not as high as when he was dominant, but allegedly higher than with St. Louis this past season. The spices were emotional comments from Mulder himself, relayed by his helpful agent Gregg Clifton and new Brewers mamager Ken Macha.

While this is at least the third “Mulder is doing great” piece in recent weeks, no one has apparently seen him actually throw a baseball. At this point, the only team rumored to potentially have interest is Walt Jocketty’s Cincinnati Reds, which on one hand would be a curious destination, but on the other, quite fitting in a perverse sort of way. Yet, no teams have been named that actually admit tendering Mulder an offer.

As a result, there is more work for Clifton ahead. Expect the next installment of the Mulder propaganda in a couple of weeks. Feel free to ignore it, if you are so inclined.

Jim Edmonds, who is not being asked back to the Chicago Cubs for 2009, could become a target of the Red Sox, suggests Cafardo. The club is in the market for a fourth outfielder and Jimmy Ballgame’s 19 home runs for the Cubs have apparently generated attention.

To put that into perspective, if you add the 2008 home run counts of Cardinals outfielders Chris Duncan, Brian Barton, Joe Mather, Skip Schumaker and Nick Stavinoha, your total would be only 24 long balls. It took them 1105 at-bats to collectively achieve that.

Edmonds delivered his 19 in just 250 ABs.

While there was no doubt that then-GM Jocketty erred in giving Edmonds two years prior to the 2007 season, it is a shame that the outfielder could not have remained a Cardinal last year. In hindsight, perhaps it took his humbling failure with the San Diego Padres for Edmonds to accept he might be better deployed as a platoon player in the latter stage of his fine career.

A mercurial type, he might have never been able to bow to that reality in St. Louis. Too bad, but best of luck to Edmonds in wherever he lands in 2009.

(We’ll have to forgive Cafardo for not knowing JimEd flamed out to start the 2008 season with the Padres rather than the Cardinals. At least he understands there is baseball played outside the Northeast Corridor.)

Last but not least is underappreciated Braden Looper, who Cafardo fingers as being “close” to signing with the Milwaukee Brewers. It seems an ideal spot for the right-handed starter to land. Too bad it is a National League Central rival of St. Louis.

The Brew Crew’s 2008 playoff rotation took a major hit this off-season with the loss of C.C. Sabathia and the almost certain departure of Ben Sheets. They still have exciting youngster Yovani Gallardo and holdover Jeff Suppan, but clearly need outside help.

As an aside, Looper has Suppan partially to thank for receiving the opportunity to convert from relieving to starting in 2007. The two were teammates in St. Louis in 2006, with Suppan in the rotation and Looper in the bullpen. Once Suppan and Jeff Weaver departed after the World Championship season, Looper was drafted to help fill the starting gap the past two years. Now it is his turn to cash in.

Soup, a great guy if there ever was one, priced himself out of the Cardinals comfort range as he headed toward free agency. Suppan ended up signing with Milwaukee for four years, $42 million, a deal quite comparable to what the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse agreed to at season’s end. (Seems longer than 90 days ago, doesn’t it?)

While there is one parallel between Suppan and Looper in that they were cut loose, there is one huge difference.

The Jocketty-led Cardinals of the 2006-2007 off-season were quite comfortable that Suppan would not accept an offer of arbitration. As a result, they offered, Suppan declined as expected and the Cardinals collected a compensation-round draft pick plus the Brewers’ second-rounder when he signed with Milwaukee.

That comp round pick was turned into Clayton Mortensen, who has already reached Triple-A, and is indisputably a top 15 prospect in the system. (Milwaukee’s forfeited second rounder was used by the Cards to take Clemson’s David Kopp, currently our number 34 prospect in the Cardinals system.)

While the take for losing Looper this time around would have only been the sandwich pick, the Cardinals were overly cautious in deciding not to offer him arbitration. I still believe John Mozeliak and the Cards were unnecessarily worried that Looper would accept a one-year deal with them.

The decision not to make the offer to Looper left a valuable comp pick sitting on the table, never to be used. If the Cards go one step further and sign a Type A free agent such as reliever Brian Fuentes, their first 2009 draft pick would be in the 65-70 range. No talent anywhere near a Brett Wallace or Colby Rasmus level will still be left on the board.

Once Looper signs a nice, big two or three-year deal with Milwaukee (or elsewhere), it will become even more obvious that the Cardinals blew their chance to add another premium draft pick in a year when they could really use it.