St. Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves

Cardinals lose David Freese to broken hand

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David Freese, who was batting a robust .356 in 87 at-bats this season, suffered a broken left hand when he was hit by a Scott Linebrink pitch in Sunday’s loss to the Braves and is expected to be placed on the disabled list.

The Cardinals didn’t provide a timetable for Freese’s return, but an absence of at least 4-6 weeks should be anticipated.

The injury leaves St. Louis down two infield starters with second baseman Skip Schumaker nursing a biceps strain.  Tyler Greene figures to be a full-timer at second base now.  Nick Punto, who also left today’s game with an injury (tightness in his left hamstring) and Daniel Descalso will share time at third base.

It’s been a very tough year for NL third basemen.  The Cardinals are the third team in two days to lose their starting third baseman for all of May, as the Nationals and Giants announced injuries for Ryan Zimmerman (torn abdominal muscle) and Pablo Sandoval (broken hamate bone) on Saturday.  Zimmerman, who was already on the DL, is expected to miss an additional six weeks.   The Dodgers (Casey Blake) and Reds (Scott Rolen) also have third basemen on the DL.

With very little available on the trade market, the Cardinals will probably have to get by with their current group.  They could give Allen Craig some time at the hot corner once he’s back from a strained groin in a couple of weeks.

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.