ESPN.com wrote:3. Cardinals
In so many ways, the St. Louis Cardinals are one of the best and most stable franchises in any sport. But these days, they're also one of the most puzzling.
They drew 3.5 million people this year. They won 100-plus games for the second year in a row. They have a new ballpark rising in the shadows of Busch Stadium and new revenue streams flying at them from all directions. So why are they suddenly spending money as if they're the Twins?
They could have had Burnett signed at these meetings if they'd been willing to offer him just a little bit more than $38 million over four years. They had a potential deal for Vazquez fall apart over money issues.
They let Mark Grudzielanek, a player they wanted to sign -- and who wanted to return -- take a hike because ownership wouldn't let the baseball people pay him more than $2 million a year. And they've now lost 16 players since the final game of the 2003 World Series, many because of pressure to keep the payroll down.
"That's a team whose window to win may be closing," one GM said. "They'll still be good. But they're getting thinner, and they're getting older, and they're getting more vulnerable."
And what happened at these winter meetings -- when a starting pitcher they clearly wanted to sign didn't bite on the "You Should Take A Little Less Because We're The Cardinals" sales pitch -- could be an indication of just how much more vulnerable they really are.
It's easy to be pessimistic at this point, because the Burnett domino could have set so many other good things into motion, like the departure of Marquis. Still, I can't help but think that Jocketty has something special planned.