The composition of the Braves’ postseason rotation could go a variety of ways depending upon how much progress Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens make over the next three weeks.
While Hanson is currently sidelined with a small undersurface rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder, it sounds like he’s a lot closer to returning than Jurrjens. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hanson reported no discomfort after throwing from a distance of 120 feet Monday. He is at least one week away from a rehab start, but hopes to make one or two starts with the Braves before the regular season comes to a close.
The news isn’t nearly as rosy for Jurrjens. While Dr. Richard Steadman in Colorado confirmed the original diagnosis of a bone bruise in his right knee and ruled out any structural damage, the right-hander was advised to not throw off a mound for two weeks. The Braves haven’t ruled him out, but this would seem to give him little time to prepare in order to be a part of the NLDS roster. Jurrjens had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee last October and missed the playoffs.
The Braves currently have Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Brandon Beachy as locks for the postseason rotation and would likely fill the fourth spot with rookie left-hander Mike Minor if Jurrjens and Hanson are unable to return.
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.