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12/10/08 12:27 AM EST

Fuentes may be back on Cards' radar

Putz also viable as market for closers bodes well for St. Louis

LAS VEGAS -- Things change quickly at baseball's Winter Meetings, even when actual news is trickling out slowly.

On Monday night, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak shot down any serious likelihood of his team signing free-agent left-hander Brian Fuentes. On Tuesday, two apparently imminent signings may have increased the chances again somewhat. With two closers evidently off the market, the Cardinals are assessing their options at that spot.

"I doubt it will change," Mozeliak said Monday when asked about an earlier assertion that the Cardinals were out of the bidding on Fuentes. "But I don't know where that market is going yet."

And it's that caveat that makes things interesting. Because on Tuesday, the market appeared to move in a direction friendly to teams seeking closers. According to multiple reports, Francisco Rodriguez has agreed to a three-year deal with the Mets that includes a vesting fourth-year option, worth a guaranteed $37 million. Meanwhile, MLB.com is reporting that the Indians are close to a two-year pact with Kerry Wood.

Both deals would seem to indicate a somewhat depressed market for closers, and that's a circumstance that could get the Cardinals back in on Fuentes. ESPN.com reported on Tuesday that Fuentes, formerly of the Rockies, "may end up with the Cardinals or Angels." Mozeliak declined to speculate on whether the moves would change his club's position vis-a-vis Fuentes, but he did acknowledge that St. Louis might benefit.

"On [Fuentes], I specifically couldn't tell you," Mozeliak said. "On the role, I suspect there's a ceiling. But I don't know that."

Another name that might very well be in play for St. Louis is Seattle right-hander J.J. Putz. Mozeliak said he spoke with the Mariners on Tuesday, though he couched it with the qualification that "I spoke with them about lots of things." However, a Mariners source said that the Cardinals did indeed inquire about Putz.

Seattle is shopping Putz, and the Tigers are among the other teams in on the bidding. The Mariners are seeking a left-handed bat in the outfield, which might make them an excellent fit, since the Redbirds are willing to move Rick Ankiel in a deal for a pitcher. However, Ankiel's impending free agency after 2009 doesn't fit well with the Mariners, who are looking more at the long term than the short.

"In terms of a fit, we've made it very clear that if we think we can find a closer, we'll pursue it."
-- GM John Mozeliak

"I don't want to speak for them," Mozeliak said. "In terms of a fit, we've made it very clear that if we think we can find a closer, we'll pursue it."

Fuentes and Putz are just two of a number of ninth-inning prospects on the free-agent and trade markets -- more in free agency than trade, it would appear.

All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman is a free agent, though Mozeliak said Monday that St. Louis is not a player for Hoffman's services. Chad Cordero, who formerly closed for Washington, is also a free agent, but the Cardinals have concerns about Cordero's health. The right-hander made only six appearances in 2008 due to a shoulder injury for which he had surgery in July.

A FOXSports.com report on Tuesday morning linked St. Louis to Atlanta on a possible deal for Mike Gonzalez, but the Braves are unlikely to deal the left-hander. And Mozeliak downplayed the possibility of a swap for Philadelphia's Ryan Madson, saying he found it difficult to envision trading for a pitcher from another team and making that pitcher a closer for the first time.

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