12/23/04 – Matthew Leach/MLB.com
Cardinals sign Eckstein By Matthew Leach / MLB.com It’s like Final Jeopardy: one question and one answer remain. The makeup of the 2005 Cardinals became even clearer on Thursday when St. Louis signed free-agent shortstop David Eckstein to a three-year contract worth a reported $10.25 million. The only major remaining hole for the ’05 Redbirds is second base. St. Louis expects Eckstein to bat leadoff in one of the league’s most potent lineups, after he served that role for four years with the Anaheim Angels. "We are extremely pleased to add David to the St. Louis Cardinals," general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement issued by the club on Thursday. "He addresses two of our needs — that of a shortstop and leadoff hitter. David also has a style of hard-nosed play that we feel will fit in well in St. Louis." Eckstein takes the place of Edgar Renteria, who signed a four-year pact with the Red Sox. In turn, Boston’s shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, went to Anaheim, which briefly left Eckstein out of work. The Angels non-tendered Eckstein on Monday as a result of the Cabrera acquisition, and as soon as Eckstein was available, the Cardinals moved on him. St. Louis identified the University of Florida product as a priority as soon as he became available. "We were very aggressive early on him," said Cardinals assistant general manager John Mozeliak. Eckstein batted .276 with a .339 on-base percentage and .332 slugging percentage for Anaheim in 2004, scoring 92 runs for the AL West champion Angels. His career line is .278/.347/.353, and he has stolen 82 bases in 109 attempts over four seasons. Eckstein’s best year came for the 2002 world champion Angels, when he hit .293/.363/.388 with 107 runs scored. Complete coverage > St. Louis had been without a leadoff hitter since the departure of Tony Womack to the Yankees. "He’s hit in that spot before and he’s done a good job at it," Mozeliak said. "We envision him being someone we can put at the top of our lineup." Eckstein is considered a sure-handed defender, if not a spectacular one. He led Major League shortstops with a .988 fielding percentage in 2004, but ranked 19th in double plays and last in range factor. Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.