Give the Braves a chance, OK?

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Like I said yesterday, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Braves did a good job in the Vazquez trade. There are many potential sliver linings to what some are unfairly calling the blackest of clouds, but Atlanta clearly didn’t get anything approaching equal value for a pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. Melky Cabrera is clearly not going to make the difference in Atlanta. The Yankees won this trade, no doubt.

But while it’s one thing to call the Braves the loser of yesterday’s trade, it’s another thing altogether to use that trade as a blanket indictment of the Braves, their ownership and their desire to win baseball games.  That’s what Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus did in his column yesterday (sorry; most of it is registration-only), and he said so in no uncertain terms:

The Braves made themselves worse entirely so that Liberty Media
wouldn’t possibly have to use the red font in its spreadsheets. Vazquez makes
$11.5 million in 2010, Cabrera will make about $4 million, maybe a little less
(I’m guessing here, because of Cabrera’s arbitration eligibility). That’s $7.5
million in Liberty’s pockets, on top of the $7.5 million they saved on Soriano,
for $15 million saved in two trades that make the team worse by maybe four
games, maybe more, in 2010. Not that four wins is pretty much the difference in
making the playoffs and not in the NL just about every season, and not that
Liberty Media cares. They care that the Braves have positive cashflow, and
everything else is irrelevant.

I’ve been reading Joe Sheehan for years, and I gotta tell ya, I was pretty sure before yesterday that he knew that the rosters didn’t freeze and the season didn’t start on December 23rd. I was pretty sure he knew that when a team frees up salary in a trade, they have more than eight hours to spend it on other players before they can be accused of pocketing the money and pissing on the hopes of the fans. I was pretty sure that he knew that it was prudent for a team that has a surplus in one area to trade some of it away in order to get players (or money to acquire players) that addressed a deficit in another area.

Which, by the way, is what the Braves have shown every intention of doing. As Braves GM Frank Wren said yesterday, the team is going to use the $8 million or so that they have freed up as a result of dealing Vazquez to pursue a bat. I don’t know whose bat. And heck, maybe Wren will make a bad choice in the bat he gets. But the fact is that they had six starters and no first baseman or left fielder when we all woke up yesterday. If they
break camp with five starters and a first basemen and/or a left
fielder, they will have made the team better, even if the team they have is sub-optimal.

Look, I am just as frustrated at Liberty Media’s ownership of the Braves as the next guy. And I think Sheehan makes many excellent, general points about the drawbacks of corporate ownership in baseball in the course of his article.  But to say, mere hours after the Vazquez trade that the deal stands as a shining example of corporate neglect of a baseball team is outrageously premature.

Let’s see where the team
is in April. If the Braves have done nothing to improve their offense by then, great, I’ll buy what Sheehan is selling. Until then, give them a chance, OK?

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.