The first manager sitdown just happened — Bobby Cox on one side of the room, Jim Riggleman on the other. You won’t be surprised to hear that I went with Cox, figuring that a chance to ask questions to the guy who has shaped and lead my favorite team since I was a teenager wasn’t one to pass up. I wasn’t alone, however, as Cox easily had three times the number of reporters around him than Riggleman did. Random Bobby Cox stuff:
- The Braves have thought about moving Chipper Jones to first base here and there, but they’ve had no discussions with him about it this winter and probably won’t. Cox admits that Jones had a bad year defensively last year, but that he should have won the Gold Glove two years ago. I guess Terry Pendleton was once a gold glover too, so at some point I suppose you have to cut off that kind of analysis.
- Is Martin Prado your starting second baseman, Bobby? “He’s gonna start somewhere.” Cox suggested that he could be an outfielder. Or a first baseman. I’d be shocked to see him start anywhere other than second, but I suppose the Braves still have holes and/or the need for leverage in negotiations with guys like Adam LaRoche.
- What about the possibility of Rafael Soriano or Mike Gonzalez accepting arbitration? “If they both accept we’ll have the best bullpen ever.” Despite this, Bobby has no idea. He does know that no matter who’s in the bullpen next year, Billy Wagner is the closer. “He’s the closer no matter what,” Cox says.
- Cox, in his last season as manager, wants no part of naming his successor. He thinks any number of guys on his staff would be good, but that’s Frank Wren’s decision, says Bobby.
- He was cagey about whether Jason Heyward would start the season on the big club. After acknowledging that he’s probably the best prospect in baseball and has a great makeup, he would only say that “we’re going to give him a chance to win a job next year.” I suppose you can’t just come out and admit that you’re going to keep a dude on the farm until you’re sure he’s not going to be a Super Two.
Lou Piniella is sitting down now. I’m going to go ask him why he’s been so unfair to Milton Bradley.
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.