Following the news earlier this week that the Cardinals opted not to exercise their option, on P Woody Williams the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers takes a gander at St. Louis’ plans.

Between them, Woody Williams and Matt Morris earned $19 million last season. Their impending departures give Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty the financial flexibility to pursue a Randy Johnson deal.

The White Sox, Yankees and Angels also are exploring possible Johnson trades. The Cardinals appear to be offering Reggie Sanders in a package that probably includes 26-year-old first baseman-outfielder John Gall, who hit .292 with 22 homers at Triple-A Memphis. But the Diamondbacks probably could get more firepower from the Sox in Konerko and one top minor-league outfielder, either Brian Anderson or Ryan Sweeney.

“We’re interested in Randy Johnson,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “We were interested in him at the trading deadline. But a lot of things have to fall into place.”

Teams know they will have to give Johnson an extension to get him in 2005, which is the last year on his deal with Arizona. He could prefer to stay in the pitcher-friendly National League.

“The only way to make it work is if we have him for more than one year,” Jocketty said. “He wants to win 300 games.”

The 41-year-old Johnson is at 246, including only 22 in the last two years. He will need to pitch at least three more years, and probably four, to reach 300.

Williams could wind up as the latest native returning to Houston, replacing a retiring Roger Clemens in the Astros’ rotation. But new GM Tim Purpura must wait to see if Clemens is really ready to go.

While the Cardinals won’t offer arbitration to either Morris or Williams, there’s an outside chance they’d sign Morris to a one-year contract before Dec. 7, when they essentially would lose the chance to keep him.