Cards act quickly to bring back LaRue
Backup catcher re-signs a day after filing for free agency
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Jason LaRue's time on the open market lasted barely 24 hours. A day after filing for free agency, LaRue re-signed with St. Louis. The catcher inked a one-year deal to return as the backup catcher for Yadier Molina. The move continued a pattern for the Cardinals, who usually act quickly to sign or re-sign their second catcher. According to The Associated Press, LaRue will receive $950,000.
"Jason was a great fit for our ballclub in the role that he served this past season," general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement issued by the team. "His contributions carried not only onto the field, but also in the clubhouse and away from the ballpark, where he provided a good veteran leadership."
LaRue, who will turn 35 in March, finished the year with a .213 batting average, a .296 on-base percentage and a .348 slugging percentage. He played 61 games, starting 44, and threw out eight of 21 would-be basestealers (38.1 percent).
LaRue's offensive numbers, however, may sell him a bit short. After an extremely rocky start to the season that may have been attributable to an ongoing recovery from knee troubles, he hit pretty effectively for the last 4 1/2 months. From May 11 on, LaRue batted .252 with a .306 on-base percentage and slugged .420, plenty productive for a backup catcher.
The move makes it clear that the Cardinals do not expect to begin the season with prospect Bryan Anderson on their Major League roster. Anderson, who will turn 22 in December, split 2008 between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis, putting up a combined line of .308/.377/.416 (average/on-base/slugging) between the two levels.
The organization clearly still views Anderson as a catcher, though. He will catch in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, backing up Molina on a team that will be managed by St. Louis third-base coach Jose Oquendo.