Veteran reliever Jeff Nelson has agreed to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals on a minor-league contract that will pay him $800,000 if he makes the big-league club out of spring training, a baseball source told ESPN.com. Incentives could push the deal to more than $1 million.
Nelson, 39, is 48-44 with a 3.41 ERA in 792 career appearances with the New York Yankees, Seattle and Texas. He went 1-3, 3.93 in 49 games for the Mariners in 2005.
Nelson played an important role as a right-handed specialist on four World Championship teams in New York from 1996-2000, and the Yankees had expressed interest in bringing him back on a minor-league deal this season.
St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty has made several changes this winter to a bullpen that ranked second in the majors to Cleveland with a 3.17 ERA in 2005. The Cardinals lost Julian Tavarez to free agency and traded Ray King to Colorado, but signed free agent Braden Looper to a three-year deal and free agent Ricardo Rincon to a two-year contract. Jason Isringhausen returns as St. Louis' closer this season.