It isn’t all hindsight.
Before Cliff Lee gave up that home run to Edgar Renteria last night there were multiple people on my Twitter feed — lots of beat writers and bloggers and everyone — thinking that with first base open and the punchless Aaron Rowand on deck, Lee should have pitched around Renteria or even straight walked him. He didn’t do that, obviously, and Renteria went yard. Buster Olney has a great account of the pitch — including comment from Bengie Molina and Lee — over at ESPN today. The upshot: Molina wanted it out of the zone, Lee says he doesn’t play like that when it’s 3-0, but both admitted that the cutter Renteria deposited in the seats wasn’t the sharpest pitch he’s ever thrown.
My view before the homer? Lee should have pitched to Renteria. I guess it was the wrong view, ultimately, but that’s how I thought about it at the time. If I was Ron Washington, Bengie Molina or Cliff Lee my vote would have been to go after Renteria. Yes, he’s been hot, but he’s still Edgar Renteria. And the guy pitching is still Cliff Lee, and there aren’t many better than Cliff Lee. I don’t like intentionally walking hitters that, generally speaking, don’t pose a serious threat (and in my mind that includes all but the really elite hitters). I certainly don’t like loading the bases.
Like I said: that was ultimately the wrong call. But I’m not gonna fault Lee, Molina or Washington for making it. Lee threw a bad pitch. Renteria did with bad pitches what almost all major leaguers — maybe even Aaron Roward — can do with bad pitches. It happens.
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.