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UPDATE: Royals have a 5-foot-7 strikeout machine in bullpen

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UPDATE: It’s official, he made the team as one of four rookie relievers.

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Tim Collins has become sort of a cult favorite among prospect buffs for his small stature and big strikeout totals.

He’s listed at 5-foot-7, might be an inch or two shorter than that, and struck out 108 batters in 71 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

And it wasn’t a fluke, as Collins also racked up 116 strikeouts in 77 innings in 2009 and 98 strikeouts in 68 innings in 2008. Add it all up and the 21-year-old left-hander has a remarkable 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his four-season pro career.

Whether or not his exceptional bat-missing ability will translate to the big leagues remains to be seen, but the Royals are apparently very close to giving him a chance to find out. Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes that manager Ned Yost “wants to open the season with two lefty relievers” and “there is no obvious second choice to Collins.”

Reds reliever Danny Hererra is the only pitcher 5-foot-7 or shorter to throw at least 50 innings in a season in the past 10 years. In fact, during the past 35 years the only 5-foot-7 or shorter pitchers to log 50 innings in a season are Herrera, Bill Simas, and Richie Lewis. Collins has much better raw stuff than most diminutive pitchers, as his fastball typically clocks in around 93 miles per hour, and his minor-league numbers are so spectacular that it’d be tough for the rebuilding Royals not to give him a shot. Whether or not he’s ready to thrive at age 21 is another issue, but it’d be fun watching him either way.

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.