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contreras on the market?

mlbtraderumors, citing a report on espn radio 1000 in chicago, says jon garland has signed an extension with the white sox -- 3 yrs / $29m. could have significant implications for the cardinals, insofar as the sox will probably now market jose contreras, who would make a much better addition to the cardinals rotation than garland would have. contreras throws harder than garland (i wrote about both pitchers at length here) and profiles more as the type of postseason stopper the cards have been seeking; but he also makes more money -- under contract for $8m this year, then a free agent. the sox were reportedly seeking prospects in exchange for garland (see here, scroll down) and presumably would seek same for contreras.

quite a few "ifs" in the foregoing, but if it all comes to pass i'd hope jocketty will go after this player. if he acquires contreras, walt can then proceed with what has been plan A all along, ie trade marquis for an outfielder of the kearns / mench / wilkerson ilk. such maneuvers would give the cards the rotation bump and outfield upside that have eluded them so far this winter.

contreras, you'll recall, defected from cuba and signed with the yankees in 2003, where he struggled badly because, among other things, his wife and kids were still stuck in cuba. their arrival in the states was considered one reason for his return to form; the other was the tutelage of ozzie guillen, a native spanish speaker with a latino-centric worldview. guillen's presence supposedly helped contreras feel settled and secure in a strange environment, putting the pitcher in a mental/emotional state that was conducive to getting batters out. . . . . to the extent all of that is true, the cardinal clubhouse would seem to provide a happy home for contreras. it has strong latin american leadership in pujols and molina, as well as a manger who (correct me if i'm wrong) is fluent in spanish.

i wouldn't want to get too excited about this, because a) we don't know how the cardinal scouts/statmen feel about contreras; b) we don't know how the white sox scouts/statmen feel about the prospects st louis can offer; and c) a lot of teams will be pursuing him. but what the hell, it's another opportunity; having whiffed on burnett and vazquez, perhaps the cards can make contact this time.

i certainly hope we don't hear that st louis, having committed all their dollars to encar'cion looper et al, no longer possesses the payroll flexibility to add contreras. it looks to me as if the payroll space is still there, even with the other signings. the cards are currently $3m below the $90m target payroll, and the marquis-for-outfielder transaction will probably net them another $2m-$3m --- and said acquisition would also enable them to shed bigbie's $900K salary. so it may be a tight fit, but from here it doesn't look like a deal breaker.

stay tuned ev'yone.

hey by the way, rotoworld cites a report in the baltimore sun that the o?s are close to signing j burnitz to a 2-year, $12m contract. ayeeesh. "what a remarkably bad idea," rotoworld says; major understatement. and here i was sure the dude would pull no more than $3.5m for one year . . . . if this is what it takes to get burnitz, then forget what i said about him being a better option than encarnacion. at these prices they're both lousy deals, but burnitz is lousier.