Ryan Howard began fielding ground balls and taking batting practice this week, but his rehab from a torn Achilles will be put on hold for a couple of days so he can visit with surgeon Mark Myerson in Baltimore on Monday or Tuesday.
There appears to be a minor difference of opinion on the nature of the visit, as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Howard had a little “a little setback” while general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock indicated that his visit to Myerson is nothing more than a routine check-up.
“He’s come along good,” Manuel said. “He had a little setback, but the setback is nothing to get alarmed about. It’ll be healed up and he’ll be fine. The doctors and the trainers say he’s ahead of pace.”
“Sometimes they leave a little stitch in to dissolve,” he said. “It’s sticking out and causing a little soreness.”
Keep in mind that Howard was hitting on the field today, so it’s safe to say the Phillies wouldn’t have had him out there if there was any cause for concern.
Barring a significant setback, Howard could be back in the Phillies’ starting lineup sometime in May. Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and John Mayberry, Jr. are expected to fill in at first base until he’s ready.
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.