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Sox cooling toward Holliday? Cardinals need to pounce

Yahoo sports reports that Red Sox officials are torn between Matt Holliday and Jason Bay for a couple of reasons.

First, Bay is a proven quantity that has proven himself in the American League. Meanwhile Holliday struggled mightily in the junior circuit for the first half of the season, hitting for a poor average and little power before finally warming up just prior to being traded back to the NL.

Second, Bay is thought to be the cheaper option.

The combination of concerns may work in the Cardinals favor. After all, why would the Red Sox overpay for Holliday when they aren't sure he is as good as what they already had? Of course, this all counts on Bay's desire to come back to Beantown at a reasonable price...

One thing I am growing tired of quickly is the spin that next year's free agent class is going to be much better than this one, so maybe the Cardinals should take a pass and sit out of the 2009-2010 rodeo.

This doesn't work for a couple of reasons. First, if the Cardinals don't sign Albert Pujols to a contract extension before the end of spring training, he is probably going to figure he might as well wait until he is a free agent and he can pick and choose his future. And if that happens, all bets are off as to whether he stays or goes to the highest bidder. He has made it crystal clear that he wants to play for a team that is committed to winning and, if the Cardinals take a pass on the 2009-2010 free agent market, they clearly aren't showing the sort of commitment he is looking for... By taking a pass, the Redbirds might be forcing themselves into a position where a year from now they must trade Pujols while they can get something of value in return for him, in effect, salary dumping the modern day Stan the Man...

Second, I wouldn't believe the Cardinals if they claimed they were going to strategically save for next year. This same scenario played out in 2008 when they said they had plenty of money to spend but, gosh darn it, there was no one available worth spending it on. So they were going to take a year-long look at the kids then be loaded for bear for the 2008-2009 off-season.

When 2008-2009 happened, the Cardinals slashed payroll by $12 million and cried poor. But what happened to the $15 million they saved from the year before? Instead of the $110 or $115 million they said they could spend in 2008, the payroll shrank to a little bit more than $88 million last season. This year the Birds refuse to tell you what their payroll target is -- and it's probably not because they think fans will be mad that they spent too much. They are committed to about $70 million right now. But they don't think they can afford to bring back both Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa? I'm guessing they're talking about a payroll close to $95 million than $110 million behind the doors of Busch Stadium. And that is just wrong the way the fans have supported this team.

In a nutshell, the Cardinals have painted themselves into a corner with Pujols. So "wait til next year" isn't going to work anymore. They may not want to overpay for Holliday. But I don't see any choice but to land him -- or at least Bay -- at any cost. It's a crummy way to do business. But Albert is watching...