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The St. Louis Cardinals have made Cleveland Indians pitcher Jake Westbrook their No. 1 target leading into the trade deadline, according to teams that have spoken with them.
Until the last 24 hours, the Cardinals had been focusing on a diverse list of starting pitchers, from Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren to Aaron Cook and Livan Hernandez. But Oswalt and Haren are now gone. And clubs that have been talking with the Colorado Rockies and Washington Nationals now say the Cardinals are no longer pursuing Cook or Hernandez because the team has decided it's "going in a different direction."
That direction, those clubs say, is Westbrook. But the chances of Westbrook being dealt are still no better than "50-50," according to one source familiar with the discussions.
The Indians have said continuously they don't have to trade the 32-year-old right-hander for financial reasons. Westbrook has said he would prefer to stay in Cleveland beyond this year, even though he'll be a free agent after this season. And Westbrook's contract has been a major impediment to any deal.
In addition to the nearly $4 million remaining on his $11 million salary, Westbrook's contract would pay him a $2 million bonus if he gets traded. That has become a major sticking point with all teams they've spoken with, because the Indians haven't expressed much interest to this point in eating a significant portion of those dollars.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.