Milton Bradley and Eric Wedge clashed numerous times while in Cleveland in 2003 and 2004, leading to Bradley being traded by the Indians, and now that they’re together again in Seattle it seemed inevitable that the Mariners would try to deal the oft-disgruntled outfielder as well.
However, shortly after Wedge was hired last month Bradley said he was “over it” and willing to work with Wedge again, and general manager Jack Zduriencik recently told Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse that Bradley is being given a “clean slate” on his various issues:
That’s water over the dam. That was several years ago. He and Eric talked since Eric got the job. They are both grown men. They are both pros. They will turn the page and move on and play baseball.
First of all, since when is “water over the dam” a thing people say?
Secondly, I’m still very skeptical. The problems Bradley and Wedge had in Cleveland weren’t exactly minor issues. Wedge pulled Bradley from a spring training game, Bradley wore a “F*** Eric Wedge” shirt around the clubhouse, and the Indians banned Bradley from their spring training complex.
My guess is that the Mariners would love to move Bradley, if they could. Instead he’s coming off the worst season of his career that included a .205 batting average and injuries, and the number of teams interested in him was fairly limited even when he was playing well. Bradley and Wedge co-existing seems awfully unlikely, but when the alternative is simply eating the $12 million remaining on Bradley’s contract the Mariners probably figure they might as well give it a shot.
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.