Tim Wakefield gave up six runs on seven hits — including four home runs in the span of six batters– over three innings in last night’s loss to the Rays.
Ugly, yes, but normally we’d say no big deal. Sometimes the knuckleball dances just right and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s nothing Red Sox fans haven’t seen in his 16 previous years with the club.
But the outing takes on added importance in light of Terry Francona’s comments earlier in the day. According to Evan Drellich of MLB.com, Francona offered no assurances that the 44-year-old would make the Opening Day roster.
“We’re going to have some interesting decisions to make here come this last week,” the Red Sox manager said.
The main issue is that Alfredo Aceves has emerged as a reasonable alternative for the bullpen. The 29-year-old right-hander is back to full health and capable of starting or relieving. Meanwhile, Wakefield is coming off his worst season since 1993 and looked uncomfortable in a swingman role.
Of course, Wakefield has his advantages in this situation. He remains a fan favorite and is under contract for $2 million this season. And while Aceves has impressed this spring by posting a 3.48 ERA over 10 1/3 innings, he has options remaining and could open the season as a starter with Triple-A Pawtucket. In turn, two club sources told Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com that Wakefield’s spot in the bullpen is safe. I have my doubts about whether he’ll last the whole season with the club, but logic says he’ll at least be there come Opening Day.
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.