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Conflicting reports nothing new for Cards in free agent market

What general managers have to say over the off-season may be the only thing on par in terms of irrelevance with what politicians have to say in October.

Of course, politicians are trying to serve their own best interests by telling people what they want to hear to get themselves elected. Baseball general managers are at least trying to do something somewhat noble, doing whatever they can to avoid stoking a bidding war.

That's why I'm taking what St. Louis GM John Mozeliak had to say at the Winter Warm Up about being "out of the starting pitcher market" with a box car full of salt.

Will the Cardinals sign free agent starting pitcher Max Scherzer? I don't know. And it's extremely unlikely Mozeliak knows for sure, either. I am not saying a Scherzer signing is likely or that it's near. I am only saying that what Mozeliak stated publicly yesterday has little or no impact on what's going to happen tomorrow.

Extremely reliable and well regarded national sports reporters in the last two weeks have tied the Redbirds to both Scherzer and Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels who could be available through a trade. So we know, with relative certainty, that even if the Cardinals don't like the options currently available to them, that they're at least interested in acquiring a top end starting pitcher.

Fox Sports reporter Jon Paul Morosi, less than 24 hours ago, tweeted that the Cardinals and Scherzer have mutual interest. The post was linked to a story in which he wrote that the Redbirds were trying to find a creative compromise that would allow Scherzer and agent Scott Boras to claim the pitcher got the best deal of the off-season while allowing St. Louis to keep the length of a deal to the shortest possible term.

So, knowing the Cardinals are interested in his client and eager to make a big splash of an announcement at their annual fan fest, Boras makes an ultimatum that Scherzer isn't going to play for less than X and hopes St. Louis will bite. Mozeliak, refusing to overpay, replies that if that's how Boras feels, it looks like a deal isn't going to get done.

Does that mean the sides can't pick things back up tomorrow? No. In fact, Boras pulled a similar stunt in the Matt Holliday negotiations five years ago and, in the end, cooler heads prevailed and the deal got done.

So, again, I don't know if the Cardinals can craft a deal to land Scherzer. But I do know that the Birds feel the need to acquire a top pitcher, Scherzer has at least some interest in pitching in St. Louis and few options to get the mega deal he seeks. So I am not ready to call this one over just yet.

That being said, I get a kick out of the naysayers who believe Scherzer wouldn't be a huge addition to the Cardinals. 

The argument is that Scherzer, somehow, is worth about two more wins a season that Carlos Martinez who stands to be the fifth starter if no additional moves are made.

Seriously?

Scherzer is 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA the last two seasons. He's started 65 games and averages 6 2/3 innings per start with a WHIP of 1.074. Martinez has EIGHT career starts under his belt. Eight. In them, he averages 4 2/3 innings. He has a .301 batting average against and a .388 on base percentage against as a starter compared to a .255 BAA and a .322 OBP against as a reliever. He also has a mighty tough time retiring lefty batters.

Does that mean he'll never make it as a starter? Absolutely not. The kid is only 23 years old. He's got great stuff. But he is prone to falling apart suddenly with the sort of blow ups that make the folks who think Martinez will automatically be awesome complain that Lance Lynn is statistically no good because all he does is collect wins (which are a meaningless stat, apparently, unless tied to the words "above replacement.") Martinez wouldn't be the first pitcher to benefit mightily from being brought along slowly.

If the Cardinals are able to play the waiting game and get Scherzer at their price while hanging onto Martinez, Marco Gonzales and their young outfielders, it might be Mozeliak's shrewdest move yet.

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