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my bet: it's burnett

this is a long post, following up on the gleeful hogwash-raking that took place here yesterday. for all i know this post will be obsolete by the time you read it -- eclipsed by other news or other rumors. even in this megabyte-a-second world, the eternal news cycle moves way too quickly . . . . but let's forge ahead.

first of all, the alleged "jocketty memo": true? a guy at northside baseball claims he heard about it from "a scout working directly for the assistant GM." (northside baseball has a glacially slow server; the link may or may not work for you.) had the same story from a different source. then there's bernie miklasz, who addressed the issue somewhat cryptically in a couple of posts at the pressbox:

Walt's been sealed tight this offseason .... very on guard -- and uptight -- about what's been reported, and he's working extra hard at keeping things close to vest, to the point of refusing to return phone calls. That's not like him.

One of my colleagues got an edgy e-mail from a Jocketty aide, basically complaining because we were talking to too many agents, and being aggressive in our attempt to gather info.

It's an interesting offseason. Walt (seems to me) is stressed, unless I am misreading him.

I haven't had many conversations with Jocketty, so he isn't telling me anything, anyway. But he's usually been open with me. This offseason, he's kept it sealed.

what does it mean? One of two possibilities: (1) he's working on some huge things, and doesn't want to risk blowing the deals. (2) he's frustrated by the market and the way things are shaping up.

though he didn't directly address "the memo," bernie didn't swat the notion aside either -- as he surely would have if the report were laughably inaccurate. bernie also makes it clear that, memo or no, the hatches are battened down tight in jock's office. don't want to overparse bernie's words here, but i'm betting he knows more about this than he can say just yet; as a member of the working press, he has certain obligations and interests that a hobbyist like me is joyously free of. anyway, based on what miklasz said -- and didn't say -- i think the memo thing is at least partly true.

now on to the substance of the rumored transaction. . . . .

two theories emerged yesterday that are propped up by at least a little bit of credible sourcing:

  1. the cards are getting abreu for marquis/reyes
  2. the cards are signing aj burnett
burnett was my first guess, and last night a well-connected poster named Hawg suggested at sports lounge that it may be about to happen:
Reports from what I have heard from people familiar with the situation, the Cardinals expect AJ Burnett to sign with the team within the next couple days. His agent came out today and said, as we know, the Cardinals are the leaders, and the organization expects Burnett to sign.

Now it gets better, after the deal is signed, expect a trade to happen very quickly involving Jason Marquis. Don't know who he is going to, but he is gone.

Don't expect Anthony Reyes in any trades. He is cheap and they fully expect him to start this year.

I am penciling in a rotation of Carpenter, Burnett, Mulder, Suppan, and Reyes for Opening Day.

Whenever I hear more, I will post it. I feel pretty confident in the information. If I didn't I wouldn't have posted it, I'm not trying to stir up stuff.

the writer has good sources inside the cardinal organization and has been credited with a handful of past "scoops," including the larry walker trade. so i'm not just dismissing this out of hand; he might know what he's talking about.

he's basically saying the same thing as the birdhouse's brian walton, who has pretty good insider access. his article yesterday was headlined "Playing the A.J. Waiting Game" and began: "The Cardinals are nervously waiting to see if A.J. Burnett will accept their invitation to join them. But other big players remain in the mix." sounds a lot like what Hawg said -- a burnett signing, then other transactions. also gibes with miklasz's observation that walt may be "working on some huge things, and doesn't want to risk blowing the deals." note the plural? deals. (man i'm parsing miklasz this morning . . . "parsing miklasz," sounds like the title of a spyke jonez movie). anyway, there's no real reason to doubt this -- the cards' pursuit of burnett is no secret, the signings have begun in earnest, and teams usually like to get business like this finished in advance of the winter meetings. this one comes through the bullshit test pretty clean; could be true.

now let's examine the abreu-to-cards rumor. it seems to have begun with a poster named hoopscubs at northside baseball and spread outward from there -- bernie's site, my site, sports lounge, etc etc. however, several other people out there claim to have been hearing similar things about this from independent sources. one poster at the cards clubhouse (where there's some intelligent discussion of the rumored trade) says has already heard this rumor independent of northside bball. and the guy who runs the phillies nation chat board has been getting the same tale from the phillies side; he told me he got "an email from a friend at the phillies about this deal, that usually means something is happening."

and here's a month-old thread from bernie's saying more or less the same thing -- viz., abreu for marquis and wainwright, purportedly coming straight from two phillies front-office personnel. miklasz had only one comment in that six-page thread: "i hope you are right." you could take that in one of two ways: 1) yes they are working on a deal, and i can't comment on it but i hope it goes through; or 2) this is such a crazy idea it doesn't merit a serious response. . . . . except bernie did respond, and he generally just ignores crackpot threads. (and there i go parsing poor bernie again . . . )

the rumblings may be there, but i'm having a harder time swallowing this particular bottle of hooch. first of all, this trade would leave the cards with only three-fifths of a rotation -- carp mulder suppan. so they'd have to go out and throw big dollars at a #4 (paul byrd, it has been suggested) and stick wainwright or some other inexpensive warm body into the #5 slot. the rotation would not only lose depth but also would feature only one hard-throwing postseason-type pitcher (carpenter).

moreoever, it makes no sense economically. reyes and marquis both represent payroll leverage -- the one provides 30 starts (if healthy) for $300K, while the other is roughly $5 million worth of liquidatable salary -- could be moved for a cheaper player to clear yet more payroll space. if the cards package them both for the extremely expensive abreu, they lose nearly all their maneuverability. best way to illustrate is via a matrix:


molina c
sweeney 1b-of
carpenter rhp
is'hausen rhp
pujols 1b
luna if
mulder lhp
dotel rhp
jimenez 2b
rodriguez of
byrd rhp
king lhp
rolen 3b
gall 1b-of
suppan rhp
thompson rhp
eckstein ss
fick c
wainwright rhp
flores lhp
taguchi lf
duncan 1b
warm body rhp
edmonds cf
schumaker of
ty johnson lhp
abreu rf
cali lhp

what you're doing here is weakening the rotation and bullpen and skimping at 2b and left field -- all to accommodate one high-priced outfielder. doesn't make any sense. for the same money, the cardinals could just sign giles and retain all their other assets. under this plan, the 6-7-8 hitters would be gooch/rod, molina, and jimenez -- perhaps negating all the gains the abreu would bring to the offense.

the suggestion has been made that the phillies would pick up some of abreu's salary, enabling the cards to re-sign sanders or grud'k or something; but i just don't see the phils adding cash. jocketty's very talented so you never know, but as far as i'm concerned this trade only works for philadelphia if they shed abreu's entire salary and reinvest the bucks to fill other roster needs. that way the phils' return on abreu amounts to marquis, reyes, and an impact free agent -- a sensible, potentially advantageous move. but the phils' rationale falls apart if they have to throw lots of cash into the deal. they're already on the hook for $22 mill of jim thome's salary; even for a rich east coast team, that's about as much as any franchise can stand to pay for another team's players.

no cash equals no trade, if you ask me. the cards might have explored options with the phillies, which would explain the whispers being heard by our motley collection of sources; but i don't believe this is going to happen.jocketty's too budget-minded (and i mean that in a good way) and too focused on building a strong pitching staff.

so my bet's on burnett.