First, the trade front, followed by free agency.
In my last report two days ago, I mentioned the two parties agreed on a player for the Cardinals to send to the Yankees in return for right-handed starter Carl Pavano. I am told that player is pitching prospect Stuart Pomeranz. BUT remember, the two sides remain far apart on money.
As a result, unless the Cardinals suddenly become generous with their cash, I don't see anything happening here soon. Again, think as late as Spring Training.
I was quite surprised when I learned that Walt Jocketty and Kenny Williams, the Chicago White Sox general manager, are reportedly seriously discussing the future of left-handed starter Mark Buehrle.
The two sides have progressed far enough to be exchanging names. I am told the Cardinals are being asked to ante up at least two top pitching prospects, one of whom is reportedly Blake Hawksworth.
However, I have no word yet on whether money is an issue – either the amount remaining on Buehrle's contract or any possible desire by the Cardinals to try to lock him up with an extension beyond 2007 as a condition of making the deal.
Speaking of the White Sox, they are in on the former Mariners pitcher who was non-tendered last week, as are the Yankees and Red Sox.
As a result, the Cardinals feel they are pretty much out of the hunt, but it could help explain the White Sox' willingness to discuss a Buehrle-for-prospects deal.
The Cardinals' optimism that Mark Mulder will return is diminishing each day. One line of thinking is that he is taking time trying to talk himself into leaving. Texas, not Arizona, remains the most likely destination if not St. Louis.
Wednesday morning update: The two sides spoke Tuesday night for what was characterized as a "lengthy" session. Others who are familiar with similar negotiations, but who were NOT present, think the only motivation for such a discussion would be to talk terms.
After all, any deal for Mulder is bound to have appearance incentives as a key part, and perhaps option years. It could mean the two sides are close or the agent could also be having similar discussions with Texas or the other clubs in the competition.
While it does look like a deal somewhere may be getting closer, Christmas is upon us and folks will start drifting off to celebrate the Holidays. So, I don't know if it will get done before then or with whom it will get done.
With the Jeff Weaver situation still wandering around aimlessly in some sort of limbo-land, there is thinking the Cardinals may come back around to Jeff Suppan, especially if they lose out on Mulder. It is the first time I have heard the "S" name in weeks.
As I predicted they would have to do, the Cardinals reportedly upped their offer to non-tendered outfielder Jayson Werth, formerly of the Dodgers, from a minor league deal to a major league contract. However, it was too little, too late, as Werth signed with the Philadelphia Phillies instead.
Another in a long list of missed opportunities this off-season…
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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