In a minor move designed to add some depth, the Yankees have acquired Eric Hinske from the Pirates for prospects Eric Fryer and Casey Erickson.
Signed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract this offseason, Hinske
played sparingly for the Pirates and hit .255/.373/.368 while starting
just 23 of 76 games. He’s unlikely to see any more action for the
Yankees, but as a veteran left-handed bat with some power who can play
any of the corner positions Hinske is a nice bench option.
He can fill in for Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira if needed, and
provides some outfield insurance behind Nick Swisher and Johnny Damon
with Xavier Nady reportedly headed for season-ending elbow surgery.
Hinske has always struggled against left-handed pitching, but is a
career .264/.347/.456 hitter versus right-handers and has averaged 20
homers per 550 at-bats.
Hinske came up with the Blue Jays, winning Rookie of the Year honors
in 2002, and later played for both the Red Sox and Rays, so he’s now
four-fifths of the way through completing the full AL East tour. He’s
your destiny, Orioles fans!
Both prospects heading the Pirates’ way are marginal. Erickson was a
10th-round pick in 2005 who turns 24 years old soon and has yet to
advance past Single-A, although he’s put up some solid numbers against
low-level competition. Fryer was hitting just .250/.333/.344 in 59
games as a 23-year-old at high Single-A after coming to the Yankees in
a February swap for Chase Wright.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.