Ace paid $900K buyout; will he return?
San Francisco left-hander Jason Christiansen and Montreal third baseman Tony Batista also were among the six players who filed, raising the total to 196. Up to 15 additional players are eligible to file by the Nov. 11 deadline.
Williams went 11-8 with a 4.18 ERA last season, helping St. Louis to the best regular-season record in the major leagues and the NL pennant before the Cardinals were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
Williams, a 38-year-old right-hander, had the fewest wins of any member of the rotation during the regular season, but he wound up being St. Louis' No. 1 starter in the postseason because of Chris Carpenter's arm injury and Matt Morris' inconsistency.
The Cardinals won 16 of Williams' last 19 regular-season starts. He won twice in the playoffs but lost Game 1 of the World Series.
Williams also pitched for Toronto and San Diego during a 12-year major league career, going 103-84 with a 4.05 ERA. St. Louis acquired him from the Padres in August 2001, and he went 7-1 down the stretch to help the Cardinals win the NL Central.
He had a 2.53 ERA in 17 starts in 2002, then went 18-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 2003. Last month, he said he wanted to pitch at least a few more years and that he "most definitely" would like to stay with St. Louis.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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