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Update [2005-12-5 12:22:45 by lboros]: see update below.

i'm as sick of this aj stuff as you guys, but unfortunately i've gone too far down the road to just dump it now. so here's the early a.m. report:

nothing from hawg wild since last night. bernie m hasn't weighed in at all -- and his silence is either a sign that walton's report is true, or (more likely) a sign that bernie spent last night filing his column about the rams game and then flying to dallas. another person who is at the meetings tells me his source from outside the cardinal organization puts about an 80 percent likelihood quotient on walton's report.

more info -- but still no confirmation -- in this morning's toronto star, which says: "Burnett was said to be on the verge of inking a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals" as of late last night. the star doesn't cite its source -- it could simply be recycling brian walton's information, or it could be hearing the same thing from its own sources. dunno which. concurs with an earlier report from Inside the Dome that burnett would love an offer from the nationals. his agent met with gm bowden and mgr robinson yesterday to say "you're still in the running," even tho the nats haven't made an offer yet. according to that report, braunecker said there are four other teams in the running: stl and toronto would be two, texas prob'y a third, and the fourth . . . . . ?

not the cubs, according to the star article linked above -- contrary to what ken rosenthal wrote yesterday. by the way, the indefatigable rosenthal (and indefatigable has to rank as one of the 5 best words in the english language -- god i love that word) posted in the middle of the night that matt morris is drawing heavy interest and will probably do much better than either esteban loaiaza (3 yrs / $21m) or paul byrd (2 yrs / $15m).

which leads me to more speculation: it makes sense to me that paul byrd's signing yesterday forced the cardinals' hand. they may have come to this calculation: if paul byrd can get $7.5m a year in this market, then burnett at $10m a year is a good deal -- such a good deal, in fact, that it's worth guaranteeing for 5 years. it had been reported that the cards were interested in byrd as a fallback, in case they didn't get burnett; they could still proceed with plan A, viz. sign byrd to replace marquis, then trade jason for an outfielder, etc etc etc. but with byrd off the market, all of the best remaining pitchers either were represented by the toxic scott boras (washburn weaver and millwood) or were of the been-there-done-that variety (matt morris). supposedly matt already has a 3 yr / $ 24m offer in hand from san francisco, and in the wake of loaiaza's signing rosenthal thinks morris's price might go even higher. so what's riskier -- a pitcher in decline at $8.5m per, or a pitcher whose best years may still lie ahead at $10m? byrd's signing may have tipped the market to the point that burnett at 5 / $50 looks like a bargain -- the best deal the cards are likely to get.

and one they have to have.

Update [2005-12-5 12:22:45 by lboros]: this is starting to come together. Inside the Dome reports that the blue jays this morning officially presented burnett with a 5-year guaranteed offer worth $52.5 million. bernie has the same info from the stl side, also reports that the cards have NOT guaranteed a 5th year; they're offering a vested 5th-year option triggered by innings-pitched thresholds. in spite of which, joe strauss of the post-dispatch apparently said on talk radio this morning he believes burnett is the cards' to lose. does that mean cards will have to guarantee a 5th year? dunno.

both ITD and brian walton at The Birdhouse report that burnett's agent will meet with the wash'ton nationals at noon today. walton intimates that if that meeting doesn't yield any promise, the game is up and burnett will accept the cards' offer. the bluejays are spinning it diff'tly, but i think they're in deep doo-doo. if they've already guaranteed 5 and the cards are still in the catbird seat . . . . toronto has fired its nuclear weapon and the cards are still standing. not good for the jays.

Update [2005-12-5 15:38:54 by lboros]: the nationals are definitely still at the table. per Inside the Dome, burnett's people are scheduled to meet with them again this eve, their 3d meeting in the last 24 hours. blue jays also have an evening appointment; the cardinals already had a meeting with the burnett crew today. they are said to be running out of patience . . . .

quoting ITD:

We believe to this point the Blue Jays will have the highest financial offer on the table at the end of the day, but that does not guarantee them acquiring Burnett. The right-hander's wife is not in favor of living in Toronto, and the right-hander is having second thoughts about a move to the American League. However, the players association is pushing Burnett to take the highest contract available.
no new offers are being reported; jays are still at 5 yrs guaranteed, $52.5m; cards at 4 yrs, ~$40m, with a 5th-year option that becomes automatic if burnett meets innings-pitched thresholds in years 1-4. the buyout price on year 5 is $3m, so the cards are guaranteeing at least $43 million.

i continue to think the delay is braunecker's idea of "hardball negotiating." he finally extracted a 5-year guaranteed offer from the jays, and jocketty didn't blink; he stuck to 4 yrs with a 5th vesting. now braunecker is trying to use the nationals for leverage. i wouldn't think walt views them as much of a threat.

if the jays up their offer to $60m or so, they'll probably get aj. but i don't think he'd ditch the cards for much less than that --- 5th guaranteed year or no.