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Scenes from Spring Training: A surprisingly good game in Tempe

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These early games are supposed to be sloppy, but no one told that to the Dodgers and Angels.  Epic? Nah. Outside of Hiroki Kuroda, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier the Dodgers had a bunch of third and fourth stringers playing today. But no matter who they were, it was surprisingly well-played. The Angels won 4-1.  Random observations:

  • The starters — Kuroda and Trevor Bell — actually looked like they were pitching rather than “workin’ on stuff,” which is what you hear so often this time of year. Kuroda allowed a run and a hit in his two innings. Bell gave up a lone run, but that was a function of Kemp’s hustle more than anyone really getting to him.
  • There was a surprising amount of good defense too. Or maybe it just looked good after watching the Giants and Diamondbacks kicking it all over the yard yesterday.  No errors in this one and no boneheaded plays that got scored hits that I can recall. The game ended on a diving catch in right that was a lot of fun.
  • The running was fun.  it was a split squad game for the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly and half the team playing up in Scottsdale.  Davey Lopes came with the team here to Tempe, however, and he and acting manager Lorenzo Bundy had the Dodgers running a lot, stealing some bases and doing some hit and run. It wasn’t necessarily successful — the Dodgers lost after all — but it made for much better aesthetics than you usually see at these things. The Angels ran a lot too.
  • It was nice seeing Mike Trout play even if he was 0 for 2.
  • It was even nicer seeing Rubby De La Rosa pitch for the Dodgers.  He gave up a home run to Mark Trumbo in his second inning of work but before that he had fairly electric-looking stuff. There was no radar gun on the scoreboard here, but he had to have been rocking the upper 90s. He probably starts the year at Double A, but bookmark the guy.
  • Speaking of those two: in their one-on-one matchup in the third inning, De La Rosa looped a curveball at Trout’s head and made him bail. If it wasn’t for the fact that De La Rosa was  green himself I’d say that it was an example of someone sending a message to the fresh meat.
  • Cool thing: I got to meet longtime reader Loren, who was here with his family to catch the game. Multiple games, actually, as Loren’s wife sprung a surprise Cactus League trip on him. They flew in last night and will be here with their two boys for a few days.  Both Loren and Mrs. Loren are nice folks. And she sprung for some choice seats.  Feel free to copy-and-paste this paragraph and email it to your wife with the comment “hint hint.”

And while we’re on the subject off meeting readers, feel free to shoot me an email, a tweet or a comment if you’re going to be bopping around the Cactus League in the next week, because I’d love to meet you if you’re around.  Tomorrow I’m going to be in Goodyear for some hot hot Reds-Indians action.  On Monday it will be Brewers-Cubs at HoHoKam, on Tuesday it will (probably) be the Brewers-White Sox at Camelback and on Wednesday it will be the Indians-Athletics at Phoenix Municipal. I haven’t decided what Thursday will hold.  I fly home Friday.

Now I’m off to find a food truck selling Sonoran hot dogs because I’m just not into the whole long life expectancy thing.

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)
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.