Rehab central: Peavy, Hudson and Boone

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In a story you can’t help but be impressed by — unless you’re a Red Sox fan — Aaron Boone played in his second minor league rehab game of the week on Wednesday, going 1-for-2 at the plate for the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros.

Boone, 36, is trying to return to the majors after having heart surgery in late March because of a congenital defect in his aortic valve.

He hopes to return to the Astros sometime this season after rosters are expanded on Sept. 1.

Meanwhile in other injury news, two prominent pitchers — Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson — made rehab starts on Thursday. Both could make huge impacts on their teams’ playoff hopes if they manage to get healthy.

Peavy, acquired by the White Sox at the trade deadline, tossed three sparkling innings for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights in his first start since June 8. He struck out five and allowed one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings.

Peavy, who is recovering from a strained tendon in his ankle, pitched out of the stretch in the third inning in an attempt to get comfortable in that situation. Now it’s just a matter of building strength.

I don’t feel like I’m as strong as I’m going to be. I did three innings tonight. I’m a long way from going eight-nine innings.”

Peavy is scheduled to start for Charlotte again on Tuesday, and hopes to join the White Sox by late August or early September.

Hudson, the Braves right-hander recovering from Tommy John surgery, started slowly before putting in four solid innings for Triple-A Gwinnett. Hudson gave up two runs in the first inning as he attempted to shake off the rust. He allowed five hits and struck out three in four innings, throwing 42 of his 63 pitches for strikes.

All in all, Hudson was pleased. Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

With Braves teammates Brian McCann and Adam LaRoche watching from the front row at Gwinnett Stadium, Hudson was hitting 92 mph on scouts’ radar guns. The stadium radar gun was low, but Hudson was told his fastball was 90-93 mph, his cut fastball 87-89 mph.

“I’m really happy with how my cutter is right now,” Hudson said. “And I’ve thrown some really good [split-finger fastballs], and that’s obviously tested my elbow really good.”

If everything continues smoothly, a return to the Braves could come after two or three more minor league starts.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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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.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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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.