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Zimmermann signing decreases St. Louis Cardinals free agent options

The St. Louis Cardinals may have lost out on their best middle of the road option to add to a pitching staff damaged by injuries and free agency.

Former Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann, considered by many to be the third-best pitcher available through free agency, inked a five-year, $110-million contract with the Detroit Tigers.

Sure, that’s a ton of money. But it may be half of what the top hurlers, David Price and Zack Greinke are able to command.

The durable and effective Zimmermann would have been a nice piece to add to the St. Louis roster without breaking the bank.

So, if the Redbirds plan to ink a hurler to replace injured starter Lance Lynn and free agent veteran John Lackey, it’s going to take an uncharacteristic cash outlay -- or else they’re going to have to take a less expensive (aka a less dynamic player with a lower upside.)

Supposedly, the Cardinals have reached out to St. Louis area native Mark Buehrle about a short-term deal. But Buehrle isn’t sure if he plans to make good on a vow to retire at the end of his just expired contract.

Other middle tier free agent pitchers don’t seem to be an option. Johnny Cueto, who reportedly turned down a $120-million contract offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks recently, showed signs of wear and tear on his pitching arm last season. Plus the Cardinals would have to get past bad blood that lingers after Cueto’s ugly attack on former St. Louis backup catcher Jason LaRue.

Cueto kicked LaRue in the head repeatedly with his spikes during a brawl in Cincinnati that left the longtime catcher with a concussion.

The Cardinals have been continuously linked to Price since they tried to trade for him both from the Tampa Bay Rays and later the Detroit Tigers and Price is said to have the Redbirds on the short list of teams for which he’d like to play.

But it’s hard to imagine them bidding more than $200 million on a pitcher. And that’s what it’s going to take to land Price.

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