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wait program

our work is done on burnett; hawg wild and mlbtrade, ya done good. on tuesday morning MLB Trade Rumors provided the first hint that the cardinal front office anticipated an imminent high-impact acquisition; on tuesday night hawg wild stuck out his neck and said burnett was the target. and by yesterday multiple gabbers online (including bernie) were reporting online that the cardinal offer comprised four guaranteed years, with a team option for year 5 that vests automatically if burnett meets certain performance thresholds (most prominently for innings pitched). also that burnett's decision would come down within 2 or 3 days.

this morning the post-dispatch joined the chorus: four years guaranteed, fifth-yr option, and an imminent decision.

so now we can all agree on that part: what next? it has been widely reported (in the post, for example) that burnett already has received multiple offers comprising 5 guaranteed years. based on how jocketty operates, we can safely assume the cards' offer is final -- and it's far from the best offer, dollarwise. but the cards apparently benefit from being the arkansas-born-bred burnett's "hometown team"; some other organization is going to have to pay a big premium to overcome that consideration.

we now wait to see whether the blue jays, mariners, mets, or some other team wants aj badly enough to bet the cardinals off the table.

and while we wait . . . . here's a short Q+A i had been planning to post on tuesday, before all this other sh*t started flying. i recently asked matt leach, who covers the cardinals for, if he would provide some informed opinions about the cards' position heading into the winter meetings. he graciously agreed to my request, and so i e-mailed him a handful of questions. keep in mind -- matt and i conducted this exchange on monday/tuesday, before giles had signed and just as Memogate was clicking into gear. but recent developments haven't really eclipsed our exchange, and matt provided some good insight, particularly as regards the outfield situation. his answer to my last question seems partic'ly relevant in light of the just-concluded Rumor Week here at VEB. enjoy ev'body-- and thanks very much, matt.

VEB: what's jason marquis' trade value? he seems a tough one to gauge. any chance he might return a good, moderately priced outfielder along the lines of, say, brad wilkerson?

Leach: I think there is a decent chance. I'm a Marquis believer, personally, and I also think that lots of teams feel the same way. He obviously has a very nice arm, and for all the gnashing of teeth over him this year, he's a solidly league-average to above-average pitcher. Plus, in the current market, he's still very affordable. As for whether they'll deal him, I never claim to know what Walt's plans are. But if they do decide to, I think he has significant value.

VEB: it's starting to look as if the cards will not get either giles or burnett. what's plan B?

Leach: See above -- I never claim to know what Walt's plans are. I will say this -- if they don't bring in a frontline starting pitcher, either through free agency or trade, I fully expect that Marquis will be back and Anthony Reyes will be the fifth starter.

As for the outfield, I wish I knew. I can only speculate on what I think would make sense, and one name I can't shake from my mind is Rondell White. I think he'll be affordable, and when he's healthy he's a more valuable hitter than the other tier-two names we all keep hearing, like Juan Encarnacion and Jacque Jones.

VEB: we hear the cards are going hard after dotel. whom do they target if dotel signs elsewhere? how reliable is his health? will the cards acquire an "insurance policy" in case dotel's arm isn't sound?

Leach: Whether they sign Dotel or not, the Cards will still need a significant infusion of relief help. I've heard recently that he may be more likely headed elsewhere, but we'll see when he signs. I think Dotel himself is something of a risk, but not a huge one, because TJ surgery has become something of a routine procedure, as far as significant operations go. And he was a fantastic pitcher before he got hurt. I think it would be an excellent move to bring him in.

Beyond that, who knows? This market has to be terrifying for a team trying to build a bullpen -- $39 million combined for Ryan Dempster, Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry is just staggering. I do suspect that at least one spot in the bullpen will go to somebody, either a prospect or an NRI, who makes the team out of Spring Training.

VEB: looks like the ceiling on morris is about 3 yrs / $24 mill. any chance the cards would match that offer? any chance morris would accept less (say, 3 yrs / $21 m plus incentives) to stay in stl?

I think he might take a little less, but I don't expect the Cardinals to come anywhere near that neighborhood for Morris. And though I'm fond of Matt personally and I understand what he's meant to the organization and to fans over the past nine years, I'm afraid that's the right decision.

Morris may turn out to be a fantastic pitcher over the next three years, but I'd sooner pay him big dollars for one year than small for three. I'd just be very nervous if I were a team executive committing three years to him.

VEB: aside from the cubs, the nl central teams have been very quiet. any high-impact transactions brewing that you've heard about?

Unfortunately, it's tough to come by that stuff. I do all I can to stay on top of things, but the teams that are good at dealing are also very good at keeping things quiet. (see: Cardinals, St. Louis).

I'll say this, though. I know you know this, and I suspect a lot of your readership knows it, but everybody needs to be extremely skeptical at this time of year. If somebody says, "I heard the Cardinals are working on a trade for Jeff Kent," what he or she probably means is, "My friend said to me the other day, 'Wouldn't it be cool if the Cardinals could get Jeff Kent?'"

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i've got a new poll up (rh sidebar) about burnett. and now i'm going to take a nap. somebody wake me up if he makes a decision.