With Kyle Lohse signed to a new four-year contract, the Cardinals are left with eight remaining free-agents of their own to deal with. I don't think there is much chance many of them will be back, but here are my thoughts on the remaining eight:
Jason Isringhausen: when he shut it down toward the end of the year, it looked like his career was over, but recently Izzy has been making overtures about coming back and pitching again. He's a Tony favorite, so I don't think it is out of the realm of possibility that he could return. I wish Izzy the best.....he's been a solid Cardinal for a long time and had some really good years, but I think it's time to turn the page on him. Even if he were signed to be a long-reliever, Chris Perez doesn't need Izzy looking over his shoulder at every slight falter, and you know Tony would be pre-disposed to turn to Jason if Perez struggled in the closer role at all. Definitely time to move on.
Juan Encarnacion: Career is probably over, but he wouldn't be brought back anyway, given our glut of OFs
Mark Mulder: There's a better chance of Scott Rolen getting a Christmas card from Tony LaRussa than there is of the Cardinals exercising the $11M option on Mulder to bring him back next year. They'll pay the $1.5Million buyout and then appropriately turn the page on him, too.
Braden Looper: I wouldn't mind him returning actually, as I still feel the Cardinals need to add an arm to the rotation, given the uncertainty surrounding Chris Carpenter. I think it is unlikely that he will be back for financial reasons, as Mozeliak is more likely to go after a cheaper alternative if he makes a move at all. Looper has posted two straight double digits win seasons, and is durable. He'll command some decent off-season money, but it probably won't be in St. Louis.
Russ Springer: Probably his decision if he wants to come back or retire, but at $3.5M this season, he was a pretty decent buy for the bullpen. Bringing him back at similar dollars to help stabilize a young bullpen is probably a good idea.
Cesar Izturis: I'd love to see the Cardinals upgrade the shortstop position with a Furcal or someone, but if they decide to spend the available dollars on the bullpen or the rotation instead...I'd be okay with Izturis coming back in the $3M range for 2009. Plays stellar defense and provides some timely hits, too.
Jason LaRue: A bargain backup at $850,000 in 2008, I'd like to see him come back as Yadi's backup. Good veteran who obviously has the favor of Duncan and the pitching staff.....I think he'd be a much better option than Mark Johnson as the backup catcher. I believe Bryan Anderson will be traded this off-season, and even if he isn't, it makes little sense to have him around as a bench player.
Ron Villone: I hope he has already cleaned out his belongings and left St Louis, and I hope he's been erased from Mozeliak's memory. Please, for the love of God, don't bring this guy back.