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Kershaw won’t be suspended for plunking Parra

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Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw will not be suspended for hitting Arizona’s Gerardo Parra with a pitch on Wednesday night, according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

Umpire Bill Welke ejected Kershaw quickly in the sixth inning after an inside fastball bounced off Parra’s elbow. Welke was clearly reacting to the previous night’s festivities, when Kershaw screamed at Diamondbacks players after Parra stood and watched a home run.

Welke’s reaction is not surprising. In a way, it would have been more surprising if Kershaw had not plunked Parra at some point. Even D-backs broadcaster Mark Grace expected some fireworks, saying excitedly on Tuesday night’s game broadcast that “Kershaw’s gonna drill somebody. Alright!”

The problem is, if Kershaw did in fact drill Parra on purpose, he did about as good a job as possible in making it subtle. Parra was hugging the plate, and Kershaw’s pitch was not that far off the plate. A fastball to the middle of the back or the ribs would be one thing, but the pitch in question simply wasn’t that obvious.

The lack of a suspension proves that. And that’s a good thing. Kershaw is a strong contender for the NL Cy Young award, and it would be a shame to see him miss any starts the rest of the way over a minor incident.

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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.