Opening Day flag

Looking ahead to Opening Day’s six — what, only six? — games

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Today is the day that everyone learns a little something about their employer. Like, whether he is so unreasonable as to not allow you to blow the day off to watch ballgames. Or, at the very least, if he’s so uptight that he won’t allow you download MLB.tv on the company machine — using the company credit card to pay for it — and watch games as you process those TPS reports. And drink beer.

Hint: if he has a problem with this, update your resume because life is too short.

Or maybe you should just ride it out. There are only six games on this Opening Day. Which I suppose allows for more teams to have the spotlight, but also makes it something less than the glorious orgy that 15 day games would give us. Probably not worth complaining about, I suppose. In the past few years we’ve had only that one night game on Sunday night to kick things off and that felt way weirder than a half dozen day tilts.

Regardless, here is the day’s slate, all times are Eastern time because that’s how we roll in the East Coast-based media:

Tigers at Yankees, 1:05PM, ESPN:  We’ll be live blogging this one here at HBT. At least we hope so. The forecast in the Bronx is calling for rain mixed with snow and temperatures in the low 40s at game time. If this is the junk that came through Ohio yesterday, we may have some problems. I still have snow on my front yard as I type this.  If it does go off, however, we get CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander, and that’s pretty friggin’ sweet.

Braves at Nationals, 1:05PM: Derek Lowe vs. Livan Hernandez is somewhat less inspiring a matchup, no?

Brewers at Reds, 2:10PM: There was a time when the Reds always had the first game on Opening Day. That time has passed, sadly. Opening Day is always a hoot in Cincinnati, with parades and stuff. It’s one city where, yes, your boss may very well allow you to blow off work today. At least I hope it’s still that way despite the fact that the scheduling Gods no longer favor it.  To watch in this one: Edinson Volquez. I am concerned about him, frankly. Given the other injuries in the rotation, he is pretty critical to the Reds.

Angels at Royals, 4:10PM: Ladies and gentlemen: Luke Hochevar, Opening Day starter. If I’m a Royals fan I consider heading to Omaha’s Opening Day instead.

Padres at Cardinals, 4:15PM, ESPN: Your second nationally-televised game of the day. The forecast here looks much better: 50 degrees and sunny at game time. Well, it looks better to anyone besides the Padres. Who, if my San Diego-living brother is any judge, will spend all day trying to explain to anyone who will listen that 50 degrees truly is beastly weather.

Giants at Dodgers, 8:00PM, ESPN: A nice one on which to end the day and to take us through the evening. Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw is an even better matchup than Verlander vs. Sabathia. Question: why do the World Champs start the season on the road? Seems weak to me.

And because it sounded so nice the last time I said it, let’s say it again: Play ball.

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.