Playing the A.J. Waiting Game

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.

The Cardinals' interest in free agent starting pitcher A.J. Burnett is legitimate and serious. The team wants a firm answer to their offer prior to the Winter Meetings and have reportedly been promised that they will get one. They also continue to work on trade possibilities, assuming a starting pitching surplus for the short-term.

As the rumor stands right how, the Cardinals have the leading offer that the Burnett camp will accept. But, that could change in the next few days. As mentioned elsewhere, the Toronto Blue Jays have the money, have proven that they are willing to spend it and have targeted Burnett.

One report is that the Jays offered a similar amount of money to both Burnett and B.J. Ryan last week. Supposedly, whoever accepted first got the money. As we all know, Ryan will be Toronto's new closer, while Burnett waits.

Next step is whether the Jays want to extend their offer to Burnett, which should happen this week if it is going to. Still, their earlier offer may not be enough. To get Burnett to come to Canada might take as much as five years/$60 million, a price that the Cardinals would seemingly not match.

Despite ongoing MLB ownership, which we all know slows any decision to a glacial pace, I am told the Washington Nationals may increase their offer to Burnett, also. But, the Jays seem to be the main known threat.

While there is guarded optimism in the Cardinals camp, there is also rightful concern. Being first in a race that hasn't yet reached the finish line is a nice feeling, but it can also become a major disappointment at the last instant.

After all, we only need to go back as far as last year about this time when the Edgar Renteria negotiations looked favorable down the stretch. But, when it came down to the wire, the decision took a major turn in the wrong direction for the Cardinals.

The next few days could tell the story for Burnett and the Cardinals.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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