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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Bay keeps Cardinals Holliday cooking cold while Mo stirs pot

The St. Louis Cardinals are experiencing some extra spice in their Holliday cooking due to an unwanted touch of Bay while the GM puts the heat on the super agent.

Jason Bay (AP/Charles Krupa)In multiple reports, St. Louis Cardinals officials have expressed no interest whatsoever in signing free agent outfielder Jason Bay, late of the Boston Red Sox. Yet the 31-year-old may hold the key to the route taken in building, and perhaps the ultimate success of, the 2010 Cardinals roster. It isn’t a stretch to consider its impact to the future of Albert Pujols in the organization.

How can that be?

I see Bay as the trigger for the slow-moving outfield market. The big-spending Red Sox seem to want their free agent back, having made him an early off-season offer of four years, $60 million. The Canadian native turned it down.

Apparently Boston hasn’t made another strike since and seems in no hurry to do so. Bay’s home-area club, the Seattle Mariners, are rumored to be interested as are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The New York Mets reportedly made a four-year, $65 million offer during the just-completed winter meetings.

That is all noise on the line. If the Red Sox ultimately want to be the high bidder for Bay, they can and will. Yet their slow pace in ramping up and wrapping up negotiations leaves the most important free agent outfielder in play, Matt Holliday. Though Holliday is considered the superior player by most, he appears to be the Sox’ fallback plan if they can’t get a Bay deal done.

Until/unless that occurs, agent Scott Boras seems unable to unearth any public bidders to leverage up the Cardinals’ price for Holliday. The agent continues to expect Mark Teixeira-money for Holliday, eight years, $180 million. To date, there seems no market interest in making that kind of commitment.

The Sox are really in the driver’s seat. They can outwait Bay and even if they lose him, they can just dig a bit deeper in their pockets and snare Holliday. Unless Boras can flush additional potential buyers for his client out of the bushes, he may have to wait for Boston, as well.

The Cardinals are the ones who will probably have to blink first in this four-way stare down. If they wait too long, they will miss other opportunities to retool their club for 2010. The Cards are clearly aware of this, but the optimal time to apply a hard and fast deadline to Boras was unclear – until Friday morning, at least.

The way I see it, it isn’t Boras and Holliday who will determine whether the latter remains a Cardinal as much as it is Bay and even more so, the Red Sox. It is not a good place to be for the St. Louis brain trust. Yet there has been some movement in the one aspect of this situation they can control.

On the Bernie Miklasz radio show Friday morning, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak confirmed he has made a formal offer to Boras for Holliday’s services and expects a response within 48 hours (that would appear to be Sunday). Details were not disclosed.

Here is hoping Mozeliak draws a firm line in the sand very soon with Boras and either lands Holliday or moves on. Mo suggested to Miklasz that mid-week next week as a probable timeframe when he may do just that.

Unless the offer is Teixeira-type money, which we know it isn’t, Boras will likely reject the Cardinals’ proposal, gambling that Boston or one of the other Bay suitors will eventually ante up more for Holliday.

Though it may be painful at first to say goodbye, the Cardinals can live without Holliday. Let the new killer B’s – Bay, Boston and Boras – play their games for the rest of the winter if need be.

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