The firing of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry yesterday has immediately led to speculation about some potential high-profile successors. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is in the final year of his contract and while there hasn’t been any talk about an extension yet, he told the New York Daily News yesterday that he has no desire to walk away.
“I have a job and I’ve been proud to be associated with this franchise,” Cashman said Friday. “I’m not looking to remove myself from this franchise.”
“Every year my contract has expired, there have been unnamed experts that throw hand grenades about their suspicions with what I’m going to do,” Cashman said. “At some point, they’ve always been wrong.”
We have also heard speculation linking the Cubs to Pat Gillick, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported yesterday that “it’s doubtful that he would even consider the Cubs” because the Hall of Fame GM “is happy as a special advisor with the Phillies.”
We’ll likely hear plenty of names in the days ahead, but one of the early favorites is White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn, who interviewed for the Mets’ general manager vacancy last year. According to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com, White Sox GM Ken Williams called Hahn “one of the most qualified men to assume the position moving forward.”
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.