Schneider jumps from Mets to hometown Phillies

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Brian Schneider has been a starter for basically his entire career, but the 33-year-old catcher will now back up Carlos Ruiz after signing a two-year contract with the Phillies this afternoon.
While one Philadelphia newspaper suggests that Schneider passed up a chance to start for several other teams in order to join his hometown Phillies, that seems fairly unlikely. Instead, my guess is that the best he could do elsewhere was a promise that he’d compete for a starting job with a younger catcher and rather than do that for a lesser team he decided to join the back-to-back NL champs and the team he grew up rooting for.
After all, Ruiz has started 100, 92, and 100 games in the past three seasons, is coming off a career-best .255/.355/.425 performance in the regular season, and batted .341 in the playoffs, so the Phillies probably aren’t looking to reduce his role. Instead, expect the left-handed-hitting Schneider to draw 40-50 starts while primarily giving the right-handed-hitting Ruiz breaks against tougher right-handed pitchers. It should be an effective quasi-platoon.
Philadelphia definitely didn’t need a veteran backup like Schneider, but the Phillies are strong enough up and down the roster that tinkering at the margins while paying a premium for depth makes sense. Meanwhile, the Mets never had any intention of re-signing Schneider and interestingly are close to signing Chris Coste, who spent most of the past four seasons backing up Ruiz for the Phillies. Musical catchers. New York is also said to be in the mix for Henry Blanco, and still has Omar Santos and Josh Thole as in-house options.

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.