They haven’t fired their manager (yet), but the Marlins made a surprising move today by demoting Opening Day center fielder and former Rookie of the Year winner Chris Coghlan to Triple-A.
Coghlan was asked to switch to center field this season after previously never playing the position as a pro and has fared relatively well there, but he hit just .230 with five homers in 65 games, as his OPS has dropped from .850 as a rookie to .718 last season and now .668 this year.
Making the move even more surprising is that the Marlins called up journeyman DeWayne Wise from Triple-A to take Coghlan’s roster spot and compete with Emilio Bonifacio to replace him in center field.
Wise signed a minor-league deal with the Marlins last week after the Blue Jays agreed to let him go despite a .338 batting average at Triple-A, but he’s a 33-year-old career .222 hitter with a .642 OPS in 376 games in the majors. In other words, for as bad as Coghlan has been this season he’s still out-produced Wise’s career numbers. Bonifacio has similarly terrible career numbers, although he’s been more productive this year.
Losing 14 of 15 games tends to convince a team they need to do something, but this move certainly doesn’t make the Marlins any better.
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.