Pujols wins NL MVP unanimously

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No drama this time, as Albert Pujols took home all 32 first-place votes to be named the National League’s MVP by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday. Pujols is the first unanimous MVP selection in either league since Barry Bonds in 2002.

Hanley Ramirez finished runner-up while Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, Andre Either and even Derrek Lee received second-place votes, but it wasn’t really all that close. This was Pujols’ year.

Click here to see a full breakdown of the results (Where’s Chase Utley, and who the heck gave Jeremy Affeldt a tenth-place vote?).

The repeat distinction is well-deserved for Pujols, who led the National
League in on-base percentage (.443), slugging
percentage (.658) and OPS (1.101), while also besting the National
League field in home runs (47) and runs scored (124). Pujols was a
monster in nearly every situation imaginable in 2009, but he
really cleaned up with the bases loaded, blasting five grand slams and
driving in 35 runs. The most incredible part? He did all that damage in
17 at-bats.

Sometimes we’re so distracted by his absurd production with the bat
that we forget the little things he does on the diamond. Pujols didn’t
win a Gold Glove this season, but he probably should have. He even led
his team with 16 stolen bases, tying a career-high.

We’re not giving away an MVP of the decade or anything, but if we did,
Pujols would wear the crown. Pujols, now a three-time MVP winner, didn’t even make his debut until 2001, but
he leads all major leaguers this decade with a .334 batting average,
366 home runs and 1,112 RBI. And to think he gave everyone else a year head-start.

As we close the book on yet another award season, a few voters went
rogue — some with compelling arguments, others, no
so much — but it can’t be denied that the BBWAA got the major awards
right for a second straight year. With this year’s Cy Young and MVP selections, we
have four of the most elite, exciting treasures of our game. It’s a
great time to be a baseball fan.

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.