ST. LOUIS (AP) – Just like last year, the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves with several holes to fill.

General manager Walt Jocketty, returning from a largely frustrating winter meetings, knows there’s plenty of time to stock the roster.

“The market has gone crazy, but we’re not going to go crazy with it, OK?” Jocketty said Friday. “And if clubs want to spend the kind of money they’re spending on the players they’re spending it on, more power to them. But we hope to make better decisions.”

The Cardinals made one serious bidding foray, stopping at four years and $40 million for A.J. Burnett, who agreed to a $55 million, five-year deal with the Blue Jays.

“Believe me, we took a strong effort at Burnett and that was going to be a very significant financial obligation,” Jocketty said. “It got beyond the point where we thought it made baseball sense and business sense to go for it, so we backed off.”

The situation was similar with players from the Cardinals’ second straight 100-win team that departed as free agents. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek, who made $1 million last year, wanted a two-year, $6 million deal, so the Cardinals cut ties.

Reliever Julian Tavarez and infielder Abraham Nunez priced themselves out of the Cardinals’ plans. Outfielder Reggie Sanders wanted a two-year deal at age 37 while the team held the line at one season.

“We just didn’t feel that was appropriate or something we wanted to do,” Jocketty said. “Reggie did a great job for us for two years but we thought it was time to kind of turn the page.”

Jocketty said 14-game winner Matt Morris likely won’t be back, either, because of heightened interest elsewhere that will elevate his price. Morris has been offered arbitration.

“After a discussion I had with his agent, I think it would be probably less than a 50 percent chance that would happen,” Jocketty said.

Jocketty emphasized the core of the team that has won 205 games the last two seasons remained. Albert Pujols is coming off an MVP season and the Cardinals also have center fielder Jim Edmonds, shortstop David Eckstein and third baseman Scott Rolen, although Rolen is coming off shoulder surgery.

Last offseason, the Cardinals had to replace catcher Mike Matheny, pitcher Woody Williams and shortstop Edgar Renteria. They plugged in young catcher Yadier Molina, traded for left-hander Mark Mulder and signed Eckstein.

“I think you need to turn the roster over,” Jocketty said. “I think turning a percentage of your roster over every year is healthy.”

Jocketty said Hector Luna, a winter-meeting draft pickup two years ago, is the first choice to take over at second base, with Aaron Miles and Deivi Cruz as backup options. Larry Bigbie, acquired along with Miles from the Rockies for disgruntled reliever Ray King, is a low-budget possibility to plug in at left field, with So Taguchi and John Rodriguez also options.

The biggest needs are an impact corner outfielder to replace the retired Larry Walker and relief help. The Cardinals have three bullpen openings following the loss of King, Tavarez and Cal Eldred, who retired.

“There are a number of holes,” Jocketty said. “But there also should be a level of trust with what we’ve done the last few years to give us some credit and benefit of the doubt that eventually we’ll get this thing put together.”


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