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Mac leaves opening for Giambi

Mark McGwire's retirement creates a $30-million windfall in the Cardinals' budget.

Now they have to decide how, or if, to spend it.

Among the options to replace McGwire, who retired Sunday after two frustrating, injury-plagued seasons, is a player who has done it before: Jason Giambi.

Giambi, who has admired McGwire since their days together in Oakland, replaced the slugger on the Athletics in 1997 when McGwire was traded to St. Louis.

Giambi won the AL MVP in 2000 and might win it again after batting .342 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. But he will be expensive.

The Cardinals probably will have to compete with Oakland and the big-spending Yankees to bring in Giambi. It might take as much as $20-million a year.

McGwire, the former single-season home run king, announced his retirement now instead of closer to opening day to allow the Cardinals to find a replacement, such as Giambi.

"I believe I owe it to the Cardinals and the fans of St. Louis to step aside, so a talented free agent can be brought in as the final piece of what I expect can be a world championship-caliber team," McGwire said in his statement Sunday.

Another possibility at first base is Tino Martinez, a free agent after winning four World Series titles in six years with the Yankees. The Cardinals also could move NL Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols to first base and sign an outfielder such as Moises Alou.

The Cardinals might prefer keeping costs down a bit. The payroll was $74-million last year and projects to $80-million this year, with 22-game winner Matt Morris, among others, due for a large raise.

General manager Walt Jocketty said last week that he's trying to reduce the payroll to $70-million, which would leave next to nothing even with McGwire's departure.