That’s what Tom Verducci at SI is saying in light of their “aggressive” pursuit of Roy Halladay, the prize for whom they currently stand as the front runner. He quotes Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin as saying that between the Halladay stuff and some of their other recent moves, the Phillies are “creating a powerhouse” in the NL, raising the bar for other teams just like the Yankees have raised the bar in the American League.
Or maybe the Red Sox. Says Verducci: “The Phillies represent the biggest growth brand in the baseball
industry, similar to how the Red Sox began to rise in 2003 under new
ownership.” All that’s missing, it seems, is an equally aggressive and astute rival. As for now, the Mets are occasionally aggressive, but not all that astute. The Braves are the opposite. The Marlins never seem all that interested in contending for more than a year at a time before tearing it all down and the Nats need a lot more time.
Will this eventually lead to a rise in the NL’s fortunes? Maybe too early to say, but we can say this: right now they stand as the favorites to land Halladay, and that’s without even putting their top prospects like Kyle Drabek on the table. At least not yet. Verducci says that Philly is even exploring bringing in a third team to the deal. A deal they very obviously want to make happen. And that Roy Halladay wants to make happen too, according to various reports.
Halladay-Lee-Hamels as the top three. A lineup chock full of All-Stars. Maybe a new closer in John Smoltz. Can anyone say Yankees vs. Phillies, part II?
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.