ST. LOUIS -- Mark McGwire's retirement creates a $30 million windfall in the St. Louis 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's done it successfully once before: Jason Giambi.
Giambi, who has admired McGwire since their days together in Oakland, replaced Big Mac on the Athletics in 1997 when McGwire was traded to St. Louis.
Giambi won the AL MVP last season and could win it again this season after hitting .342 with 38 homers and 120 RBIs. But he will be expensive.
The Cardinals will probably have to compete with Oakland and the big-spending New York Yankees to bring in Giambi. It might take as much as $20 million a year to sign Giambi. The Cardinals have $30 million to play with over two years.
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, like 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 like Moises Alou.
On the other hand, 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.
McGwire, 38, batted just .187 in his final season with 29 homers and finished with 583 career homers, fifth on the all-time list. He was the single-season home run king for three seasons after hitting 70 in 1998, waging a season-long race with Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs.
"I got close to him when we shared the home run race," Sosa said in a statement. "He must have a good reason for his decision.
"The way he declined the money from the Cardinals so that they can bring someone else into replace him ... that's a class act. I will never forget him."
McGwire's announcement, while not entirely unexpected, shocked the Cardinals' front office because it got the news via fax just like everybody else. The fax arrived at Busch Stadium late Sunday night, so the team didn't see it until Monday morning.
Jocketty was in Phoenix for the team's annual organizational meetings, and still had not heard from McGwire, who was vacationing in Mexico. Manager Tony La Russa was initially skeptical of the fax for the same reason Sunday night.
"I just hope that how this has been handled over the course of the past 24 hours, I think we'll get through that real quick," team president Mark Lamping said. "I think everyone would agree that as we look back on Mark's contributions to St. Louis that we celebrate all the things he did for this franchise."
McGwire declined all interview requests through his public relations firm.
"It's our understanding that he was not doing any interviews in the immediate future," Cardinals spokesman Brian Bartow said. "There may be opportunities possibly later this week."
Teammates were shocked at the news, no matter how it was delivered.
"I was like, 'Oh my God,"' Pujols said at a news conference to honor him as NL Rookie of the Year. "I heard a lot of rumors, but I never thought it was going to happen."
Pujols wasn't sure how McGwire's retirement would affect his future. He started at four positions last year, 31 of them at first base.
"It doesn't matter where I play," Pujols said. "I just want to be in the lineup every day and do the best I can for my team."