Jason LaRue Rumors

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: LaRue, Martin, Ortiz, Minaya

On this date four years ago, Trevor Hoffman set a new career saves mark when he retired Ryan Doumit, Jose Bautista, and Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates in order. His 479th save moved him past Lee Smith and into first place on the all-time list, a spot he still holds today with 600 career saves on the nose. Other than Mariano Rivera and the soon-to-retire Billy Wagner, no active closer is within 310 saves of Hoffman's mark.

Here's a collection of links from the last week of the baseball blog world…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.

Jason LaRue Retires

It wasn't the way he wanted to go out, but Jason LaRue tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he has played his last game in the majors. LaRue suffered a severe concussion when he was kicked in the head by Johnny Cueto during the Cardinals/Reds brawl last month, and doesn't want to risk further head injuries by continuing his career.

"I'm done. It's a simple decision," LaRue said. "As a catcher you're so vulnerable to getting another (concussion). All it takes a foul ball to the head. Even as a backup that happened 3-5 times last year. It's not a question of if it would happen again, it's when. Nobody can guarantee anything. It'll probably be worse."

According to Strauss, friends of LaRue say the 36-year-old was considering taking legal action against Cueto for the on-field assault, but ultimately decided against it. Still, he's disappointed with the way his career had to end: "I was going to retire on my own terms…. Does it suck that my career is over because Johnny Cueto started kicking me in the head? Yes, it sucks."

Although he played in just 29 games this season, LaRue hit .231/.315/.396 in 3103 career plate appearances, spending time with the Reds, Royals, and Cardinals. According to Baseball-Reference, the backstop earned $19.44MM over the course of his 12-year career.

Mozeliak: Cardinals’ Payroll Might Increase

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told fans at tonight's social media event that the team's payroll might increase over the next couple of seasons (Twitter link). St. Louis started the season with a payroll just north of $94MM according to Cot's, right in line with where the club has been since 2005.

Obviously the elephant in the room is Albert Pujols' upcoming contract extension. He'll earn the same $16MM next year that he's earned since 2008 once the team picks up his option, but 2011 is the last season the team will enjoy that discount. His salary is then expected to soar over $20MM, perhaps as much as $10MM more annually than he's pulling down right now.

The only significant contract coming off the Cardinals' books this offseason is Brad Penny's one-year, $7.5MM deal, but they'll also save marginal amounts thanks to the expiring contracts of Jason LaRue and Felipe Lopez. Ryan Franklin's $3.5MM salary will disappear after next season, but that money will just be redistributed to Adam Wainwright when his 2012 option ($9MM) is inevitably picked up. It's worth noting that St. Louis did save itself a nice chunk of change both this year and next when it traded Ryan Ludwick to the Padres. 

Clearly, if the Cardinals plan to retain Pujols and field a competitive team long-term they're going to have to expand the payroll. Jumping into nine-figure payroll territory seems inevitable for the foreseeable future.

Cardinals To Re-Sign Jason LaRue

The Cardinals will re-sign backup catcher Jason LaRue, according to the team's Twitter feed.  In his second year as Yadier Molina's backup, LaRue hit .240/.288/.327 in 112 plate appearances and caught 254 innings.  He earned $950K for his efforts.

Odds & Ends: DeRosa, Smoltz, Indians

Some news and notes from around the majors….

  • It was previously reported that eight teams were interested in veteran utilityman Mark DeRosa.  According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, you can add the Mets, Braves and Twins to the list, as well as DeRosa's most recent team, the Cardinals.  With so many interested parties, DeRosa's agent Keith Grunewald believes his client should have no problem getting his desired multi-year contract.
  • In that same article, Hernandez notes that the Dodgers talked to Grunewald about both DeRosa and another of the agent's clients, pitcher John Smoltz.  The Dodgers were previously cited as one of seven clubs looking at Smoltz, with Los Angeles being one of the teams looking at the veteran right-hander as a starter.
  • Speaking of Smoltz, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart (via Twitter) says the Astros aren't interested in the future Hall-of-Famer.
  • Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com breaks down what Cleveland might do with the back-end of their 40-man roster and with some of their top minor-league prospects.
  • Tracy Ringolsby, in a response to a reader's e-mail, doesn't believe the Rockies will pursue a free-agent infielder given the team's satisfaction with Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes.  Ringolsby also thinks that the return of Jeff Francis from injury will preclude Colorado from chasing a free-agent starter.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak all but confirmed that Troy Glaus won't be back in St. Louis next season, says MLB.com's Matthew Leach.  Leach also notes that Mozeliak was non-committal about Jason LaRue returning as the Cards' backup catcher in 2010.

Odds & Ends: Yankees, Cardinals, Astros

Here are some links to take you through the end of your workday, instead of, you know, working.

  • The Yankees aren't satisfied to simply win the 2009 World Series. They are concurrently planning to take 2010 as well, with Jon Heyman reporting that they are atop Matt Holliday's preferred list of teams, and Lohud.com's Chad Jennings writing that the Yankees should be meeting with Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman soon, though GM Brian Cashman wouldn't confirm it.
  • Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes that Jason LaRue would be a good fit for the Cardinals in 2010, and breaks down the other catching candidates as well.
  • Manny Acta had his second interview for the Astros' managing job, while Bobby Valentine and Bob Melvin are candidates to take Acta's former position as skipper for Washington.
  • Tim Wakefield had successful back surgery for the Red Sox, who have a number of 2010 contract options to consider, include Wakefield's. Alex Speier of WEEI.com runs it down nicely.
  • The Rays hired Derek Shelton as their new hitting coach. Shelton had been the hitting coach for Cleveland.
  • Former Mets' first base coach Tom Nieto is the new manager for Rochester, Minnesota's Triple-A farm team, among other minor-league hires.

Cardinals Sign Jason LaRue

According to the AP, the Cardinals signed catcher Jason LaRue to a one-year deal for $950K.  LaRue, 34, hit .213/.296/.348 in 189 plate appearances as Yadier Molina‘s backup.

Odds and Ends: LaRue, Rogers, Hunter

Some random rumorage before I shut it down for the evening…

Cardinal Trade Rumor Roundup

My apologies for posting some rumors from a few days ago; I’m still catching up.  Today’s let’s look at some recent Cardinals trade rumors.

The first question is whether the team should conduct some form of a fire sale.  Right now, they’re still mired in the NL Central race at 6.5 games out.  But if the team does spiral out of contention by July 31st, it might make sense to trade Jason Isringhausen.  He’s probably their best trading chip.  Cards beat writer Joe Strauss mentions the Braves, Indians, and Cubs as teams that would have interest in the 34 year-old closer.  After Izzy was nearly left for dead/retired in ’06, he’s bounced back with 13 saves in the season’s first two months.  He makes $8.75MM this year with an $8MM club option for ’08.  That includes a $1.25MM buyout. 

The Isringhausen trade option represents the worst case scenario.  Let’s consider what the Cardinals might do to improve in the short term.  Catcher Yadier Molina should be sidelined for at least a month with a broken wrist.  One option is Royals catcher Jason LaRue, who’s owed about $1.65MM on the season by KC.  The one concern is that LaRue is 7 for 57 on the season, and didn’t hit at all last year.  At 33, he may have to permanently join the Brotherhood of Backup Catchers, if he hasn’t already.  Yadier’s brother Jose may be an option as well.

Also on the radar: comeback kid Troy Percival.  The Cards will watch him throw, if they haven’t already.  St. Louis joins roughly a half-dozen teams in the Percival pursuit.  More than that, if you add the Giants and A’s to the mix