Daily Dose: Astros shut down Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt’s back problems haven’t improved, so after back-to-back rough starts the Astros have decided to shut him down for the season. “It’s not getting any better and it’s kind of lingering a bit,” Oswalt said. “If we were in contention and fighting for the playoffs, I would try to get an epidural block and ride it as long as I could. But I don’t want it to linger for next year.”
Oswalt had a 3.66 ERA and 104/33 K/BB ratio in 135.1 innings through 21 starts, but has a 5.48 ERA in nine outings since then and finishes the season with an ERA over 4.00 for the first time in his nine-year career. Toss in a team-record 16 no-decisions leading to just eight wins and it has definitely been a very disappointing campaign, but his secondary numbers suggest a 2010 bounce back if he can get healthy.
While the Astros remain on the hook to the 32-year-old Oswalt for at least two more seasons and at least $33 million, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Matt LaPorta is showing why it was so foolish for Cleveland to keep him at Triple-A for so long, driving in three runs Wednesday to make him 28-for-96 (.292) with five homers and eight doubles since being called up in mid-August. LaPorta’s extended stint in the minors will keep his raw totals modest and likely make him undervalued in 2010, but he’s a potential middle-of-the-order bat with 30-homer power right now.
* Mike Scioscia talked earlier this week about possibly giving rookie Kevin Jepsen some save chances because of Brian Fuentes’ struggles and may want to put those wheels in motion after Fuentes blew his seventh save of the year Wednesday. Some questionable umpiring conspired against Fuentes and the Angels, but he has a 6.38 ERA and four blown saves since the All-Star break and Jepsen has been great.
* Trevor Cahill tossed seven innings of one-hit ball Wednesday, combining with two relievers on a shutout of the Rangers. Even with the excellent outing Cahill moves to just 9-12 with a 4.54 ERA and equally unimpressive 88/68 K/BB ratio in 168 innings, although certainly at 21 years old he has plenty of room to improve. He’s not likely to miss a ton of bats, but induces lots of grounders and will throw more strikes in 2010.
* Jesus Flores got off to a nice start this year, hitting .301/.371/.505 through 106 trips to the plate, but a bruised shoulder turned into a stress fracture that sidelined him for four months. He finally returned this week, but had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum Wednesday. Washington is hoping that Flores will be healthy for spring training, but the 24-year-old former breakout candidate is now a big question mark.
AL Quick Hits: Jorge Posada began serving a three-game suspension Wednesday, so third-string catcher Francisco Cervelli delivered a walk-off single … Bartolo Colon (elbow) was released Wednesday by the White Sox after going 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts … Jarrod Saltalamacchia will undergo surgery Monday for thoracic outlet syndrome, which has a four-month recovery … Jonathan Papelbon was unavailable Wednesday because of back soreness … Nate Robertson will start Sunday in place of Jarrod Washburn (knee) … Tim Wakefield (back) is now scheduled to rejoin the rotation Monday, but will throw a bullpen session first … Fausto Carmona will stay in the rotation at 3-11 with a 6.58 ERA, with Eric Wedge explaining that “we’re going to keep running him out there” … Vladimir Guerrero left Wednesday’s game after taking a fastball off the ribs … Victor Martinez is due to rejoin the team Thursday after being away for a personal issue.
NL Quick Hits: St. Louis is skipping Kyle Lohse’s next rotation turn, with John Smoltz set to start Friday … Huston Street (biceps) threw a bullpen session Wednesday and hopes to return Sunday, but will work as Franklin Morales’ setup man initially … Joe Blanton bounced back from his worst outing of the season with six scoreless innings Wednesday … Manny Parra (neck) won’t make his scheduled Friday start despite an MRI exam revealing no structural damage … Justin Upton went 5-for-5 and missed the cycle by a homer Wednesday while teammate Mark Reynolds went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts … Randy Johnson came off the disabled list and officially joined the Giants’ bullpen Wednesday … Justin Lehr amazingly gave up five runs on five solo homers Wednesday … George Sherrill threw two perfect innings Wednesday, giving him a 0.42 ERA in 21.1 innings with the Dodgers … Milwaukee is debating whether to shut Yovani Gallardo down for the season after 180.2 innings.

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.