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how to spend $15 million

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thanks to mlb trade rumors for linking my buehrle-on-the-trading-block pipe dream, tossed off as the last line of friday's post and elaborated upon in the comments section. if you haven't checked out mlb trade rumors (it's linked on the sidebar under "ev'ything else"), you definitely should. this site was the 1st to report the cardinals' interest in octavio dotel (two days before the post-dispatch); today it improves upon an item from yesterday's p-d by identifying the team that has offered matt morris 3 yrs / $24 million: it's the giants. (matt'd be crazy not to take it; i wish him well. . . . ) mlb trade rumors also had the 1st published whiff of the cameron for nady deal. it's rare for them to post a pure-hogwash rumor like mine; most of their items seem to have substance, even if the deals ultimately don't go down.

anyway, if the buehrle longshot should pay off, remember where you heard it 1st. . . . .

mlb trade also has been following the mets' efforts to trade for luis castillo. but we also hear that the mets are keenly interested in grud'k and may end up signing him away from stl -- which transaction would leave the marlins still seeking an outlet for castillo and possibly create a trade opening for the cardinals. unfortunately, this doesn't strike me as a natural trade fit -- the cards' most marketable player, jason marquis, is just as pricey as the starter florida is attempting to trade (josh beckett) but not as good. marlins are looking for inexpensive established talent or ready-for-prime-time prospects, neither of which the cards have in good supply -- yadi molina, brad thompson, anthony reyes and adam wainwright would seem to be the only candidates. thompson's not nearly enough for castillo, and the cards aren't going to trade either molina or reyes for a 30-year-old 2bagger. this could only work if the marlins liked wainwright enough to make him the centerpiece of a package, which doesn't seem likely.

the yanks are now said to be cooling on giles -- or maybe it's the other way around. according to newsday: "Giles is a West Coast guy, but if he rejects the disoriented Dodgers, he'll likely go to the Cardinals. Yankees people know if he wanted to come, he'd be speed-dialing Torre, not phone-tagging him." whatever the case, the buzz has suddenly shifted, and there's talk again of other solutions for the bronx cf hole, including pittsburgh part-timer tike redman.

however, it's also said the cardinals have put giles and his agent on standby, pending their pursuit of help for the rotation -- viz. aj burnett. maybe jocketty's heavy pursuit of burnett is being driven in part -- and here's more baseless speculation on my part -- by the knowledge that he can get a suitable, affordable outfielder for marquis. if that were the case, he'd be in a better position to risk some payroll on a player such as burnett. for example, let's pretend walt knows he can move marquis to the nats for brad wilkerson, who won't be free-agent-eligible for another couple of years and hence will be reasonably priced through at least 2008. then signing burnett becomes more feasible. instead of paying $15m for giles and marquis in 2006, he pays $15m for burnett and wilkerson. see: . . . . :

2006 ROSTER MATRIX
BURNETT VARIATION #2: WILKERSON

STARTING 8 BENCH ROTATION PEN
molina c
~$600K
rodriguez of
$350K
carpenter rhp
$5m
is'hausen rhp
$8.5m
pujols 1b
$14m
luna if
$350K
mulder lhp
$7.5m
dotel rhp
$3.5m
nunez 2b
$2m
e.y. of
$800K
burnett rhp
$10.5m
king lhp
$2.5m
rolen 3b
$11m
mabry ut
$600K
suppan rhp
$4m
eldred rhp
$750K
eckstein ss
$3.5m
stinnett c
$650k
an reyes rhp
$320K
thompson rhp
$350K
taguchi lf
$1m
duncan 1b
Memphis
wainwright rhp
Memphis
flores lhp
$400K
edmonds cf
$9.5m
seabol 3b
Memphis
ty johnson rhp
$320K
wilkerson rf
$4.5m
schumaker of
Memphis
cali lhp
Memphis
TOTAL
$46m
TOTAL
$2.7m
TOTAL
$27m
TOTAL
$16.5m
OVERALL PAYROLL: $92.2m

as always, the bullpen is the question mark: one of the primary setup men here is coming off a major injury, the other off a lousy season. but the feasible alternatives -- looper, farnsworth, howry, graves, et al -- aren't much better. and with a rotation this good, the setup corps shouldn't have a large role to play. . . . come playoff time, though, is this the distribution of talent you want? you'll have one very good starting pitcher with nothing to do, and another who only starts once per series . . . . seems like a waste when you may have holes in the bullpen, a makeshift platoon in left field, and an overpaid 2bman whose career ops lies south of .700.

the more i plug names in and out of this matrix, the flimsier this free-agent class appears to me -- and the less risky brian giles looks. of all the bets you could place, he's starting to look like the surest thing out there, even if you have to overpay by a couple mill a year.