Greetings from Spring Training

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Welcome to spring training.jpgMy plane landed in Miami on Saturday morning and after lunch and some sightseeing with a mystery person I’ll tell you about later, I booked it up I-95 to Port St. Lucie, or as it may be more aptly called, Long Island South. Yes, there are a few Mets fans here.

Tradition Field and the Mets’ spring training complex is not really in Port St. Lucie proper. Oh, that may be the address, but it’s actually the anchor for St. Lucie West, a “Master Planned Community,” according to the signage, which may represent the first time in recorded history that the Mets have been so closely associated with a master plan.

St. Lucie West is pretty nice if you’re into meticulously landscaped boulevards, the worst timed traffic lights on the eastern seaboard and strip malls so tucked away and hidden that it makes finding the Taco Bell an unnecessarily difficult ordeal.  I’m sure there’s nice golf in the area, however.  Other notable observations upon my arrival:

  • My hotel is about a half mile from Tradition Field. The people behind the counter all wear Mets jerseys, which is pretty cool;
  • My doctor recommended that I take extra good care of myself while on assignment, so I stopped at a liquor store Saturday night to stock up on some Kentucky medicine. Behind the counter was the friendliest and least discreet clerk I’ve ever met. He asked me if I was in town for baseball and I said yes. He then told me that Mets pitcher John Maine had been in there a half hour earlier, came up to the counter with a bottle of Grey Goose and was getting ready to pay for it when a Mets coach walked in. Maine and the coach talked for a few minutes, and then Maine walked out, forgetting to buy his vodka.  I got this mental image of him getting back to whatever social gathering he was attending and someone asking him where the booze was, only to have Maine go “Ummm, oh. Man.”
  • I woke up yesterday morning to get my continental breakfast on, and in the lobby was a young woman in black spandex pants, Mets fleece and Mets cap yelling at one of the desk clerks.  Seems she left her car someplace the night before — obviously not at Maine’s party, as there was no booze there — and needed to get a cab to go and pick it up. When told it would be 45 minutes before a car could get out there, she yelled “I’m from New York and this sh– doesn’t fly!!  I live an HOUR outside of Manhattan, and I can get a car to my house faster than that!”  I suppose she has a point about 45 minutes being a long time to wait, but I’ve found that one generally doesn’t get what one wants in this world by telling people that you come from someplace better and more important than they do.

Oh yeah, I was in Port St. Lucie for some baseball too.  More on that in a bit.  I think it’s going to be a fun week.

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.