Nelson agrees to minor-league deal with Cards

Veteran reliever Jeff Nelson has agreed to terms with the St. Louis Cardinals on a minor-league contract that will pay him $800,000 if he makes the big-league club out of spring training, a baseball source told ESPN.com. Incentives could push the deal to more than $1 million.

Nelson, 39, is 48-44 with a 3.41 ERA in 792 career appearances with the New York Yankees, Seattle and Texas. He went 1-3, 3.93 in 49 games for the Mariners in 2005.

Nelson played an important role as a right-handed specialist on four World Championship teams in New York from 1996-2000, and the Yankees had expressed interest in bringing him back on a minor-league deal this season.

St. Louis general manager Walt Jocketty has made several changes this winter to a bullpen that ranked second in the majors to Cleveland with a 3.17 ERA in 2005. The Cardinals lost Julian Tavarez to free agency and traded Ray King to Colorado, but signed free agent Braden Looper to a three-year deal and free agent Ricardo Rincon to a two-year contract. Jason Isringhausen returns as St. Louis' closer this season.

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" has been published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.