Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reported earlier tonight that at least one unidentified club was in the hunt for free agent Michael Cuddyer. Well, now we know who that might be.
Morosi and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com are both reporting that the Mariners are now talking to Cuddyer.
We haven’t heard much about Seattle this offseason and it seems like an odd fit on the surface. While Cuddyer could help at multiple positions, the presence of Ichiro means he’d probably spend a lot of time in left field. He’s only played there nine times in his 11-year major league career. Besides, it’s hard to imagine they’d be willing to meet his asking price, which Heyman suggests is now north of $30 million.
Cuddyer appeared likely to end up with the Rockies after it was reported earlier tonight that Josh Willingham had agreed to a multi-year contract with the Twins, but things have changed in the past few hours. The Willingham deal isn’t done yet and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune adds that talks with Cuddyer aren’t dead. The most likely scenario is that they have given him one last chance to accept their proposed three-year, $24 million offer. Colorado reportedly has the biggest known offer on the table.
Cuddyer, who turns 33 in March, batted .284/.346/.459 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI, 11 stolen bases and an .805 OPS over 584 plate appearances this past season.
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.