And, just like every other year, just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it is not happening. Here's some of what my sources tell me is going on. What follows is not exactly what my intuition told me or what my personal projections have been, but this is the scoop, nonetheless.
As always, realize the fluidity of these matters could change any or all of these situations later tonight or tomorrow or next week.
The party could be about over. I first reported the Cardinals' offer of three years, $27.5 million back on the 12th. Since then, I am told, the Cardinals have not upped their offer and at this point, it appears they will not go any higher.
As a result, right now, the leaders in the Giles sweepstakes may be Cleveland and Toronto. Despite Giles' interest in remaining in the Senior Circuit, the American League teams are apparently the ones putting down the big money.
As it was explained to me, the Indians and Blue Jays are at least two of the teams who have offered at least three years, $30 million, which Giles' agent Joe Bick brought back to San Diego to discuss. The Padres declined what may have been their last chance to ink Giles to a new contract to remain with them.
I have been skeptical about their sincerity all along, but the Cardinals truly seem to have identified Burnett as their #1 target. Despite a high level of interest in Burnett across MLB, there is apparently some optimism in the Cardinal camp that they will get their man. Understandably, they are pushing for a decision before the Winter Meetings so they can finalize other trades and signings.
I don't know the structure of the offer, but I can only hope it is not in the range of the five year, $50 million deal that some say that Burnett was tendered by Toronto.
As an aside, I wonder if the Jays could really afford both Giles and Burnett, or are more realistically hoping they can just get one of them. After all, Toronto has not traditionally been a prime destination for marquee free agents.
Despite rumors elsewhere that his best offer on the table is from Colorado, as I reported before, Morris is favoring a three year, $24 million bid from the Giants. He could accept the deal even prior to the Winter Meetings.
Under general manager Brian Sabean, the Giants have made it very clear that they have no interest in spending a lot of money on early-round draft picks, so would have no problem with a making major signing prior to December 7. That is the date by which teams must offer arbitration to qualify to receive compensation from another team who signs away one of their free agents.
Because the Giants draft tenth, at best the Cardinals would receive a second-round pick from San Francisco for Morris.
Jason Marquis and Ray King
As introduced right here back on October 29, the Cardinals are looking to trade Jason Marquis and Ray King to acquire an outfielder. Reportedly, they have had multiple discussions with a number of teams, but I have not heard that any particular deal is close to closure.
The Cardinals may not be going all out to locate a King replacement, despite their interest in Damaso Marte. They apparently think that Randy Flores and Tyler Johnson can handle the bullpen work from the left side. Still, it seems most likely that they will bring in someone else for competition sake, along the lines of Mike Myers and Bill Pulsipher last spring.
Mark Grudzielanek and Reggie Sanders
At least the lines of communications are open. I am told the Cardinals are talking to both Grudzielanek's and Sanders' agents. Still, nothing is expected to happen any time soon.
As reported elsewhere, both players have been linked to the Kansas City Royals, among other teams.
While the Cardinals have apparently inquired with Texas about the right-handed swingman, I don't know how strong the interest is on either side.
The 28-year-old Dominican Republic native is arbitration-eligible this offseason, but has exhausted his three years of minor league options. Benoit struggled with elbow, shoulder and biceps ailments this past season.
Since his first appearance with the Rangers back in 2001, Benoit never settled into a defined role, bouncing in and out of the rotation. He strikes out a lot of hitters, but also is prone to give up the base on balls and the home run, too.
In 2005, Benoit posted a career-best 3.72 ERA, striking out 78 and walking 38 in 87 innings. In a typical year for him, he had nine starts and 23 appearances out of the bullpen. Benoit's career ERA is 5.17.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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