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Rumor Mill: Former Cardinals catcher Gerald Laird close to deal with Atlanta

As much as the Cardinals claimed to like Gerald Laird when he was here in 2011 as Yadier Molina's understudy, it seems odd that the club didn't make an effort to bring him back into the fold earlier this week.

According to, Laird is close to inking a contract to be the backup catcher in Atlanta after his re-union with Detroit lasted only one year.

The Cardinals surprised me a few days ago by inking Rob Johnson, the former reserve catcher of the Mets, Padres and Mariners, to a 2012 contract. I was caught off guard because, first, it seemed that the Redbirds were happy with Tony Cruz as their second string receiver and, second, because Johnson was a guy who was totally off the radar screen. 

Johnson is a .201 career hitter, so he doesn't seem like much of an improvement at the plate. I thought that Cruz played pretty well behind the dish and he has proved to be durable while Johnson has had a history of hip problems, so I didn't see a defensive upgrade as being in order. I suppose the move could be mostly for minor league depth. But I would be more than a little surprised if Johnson would ink so quickly in the free agent period with a a team that didn't tell him he would at least have a good shot at making the 25-man roster.

Laird fit in with the Cardinals' previous practice of employing an experienced back-up catcher who could keep the defense at a high level even if he didn't hit much. And it was said, besides a mid season dust up with Molina, that Laird was a good guy to have in the locker room.

But it sure doesn't seem like the Birds had any thoughts at all about brining him back for a second stint in St. Louis. And, with the announcement that the Cardinals are out of the shortstop market thanks to positive results in Rafael Furcal's return from elbow problems, that general manager John Mozeliak ought to have at least had some time to kick the idea around.