The Rangers and Josh Hamilton were expected to do their best to get an extension done this spring, but those plans have changed now following Hamilton’s night out at a Dallas-area bar earlier this week.
GM Jon Daniels and Hamilton’s agent, Michael Moye, confirmed the decision to put talks on hold to ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon this afternoon. Hamilton concluded his news conference on Thursday by saying, “It would be nice if it was talking about a contract, but we’ll put that on the back burner for a while.”
Hamilton, the American League MVP in 2010, is entering the final year of a two-year, $24 million contract and will be eligible for free agency for the first time after the season. Any long-term deal with him is going to be a risk. Even if one wants to discount his history of drug and alcohol abuse, there’s still the matter of injuries: the 30-year-old Hamilton has averaged 118 games per season in his five years in the bigs and there’s a real possibility he’ll be even less durable in his 30s than he was in his 20s.
One wonders how Hamilton’s relapse could have affected the Rangers’ talks with Prince Fielder had it happened a couple of weeks earlier. Might the team have been more willing to meet Fielder’s asking price and potentially let Hamilton walk at season’s end had they known what was coming? That’s not a question Daniels or Nolan Ryan figures to answer out loud anytime soon, but they’ve surely had the subject on their minds.
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.