Brandon Belt

Taking the Belt to Bruce Bochy

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CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly thinks the lineup the Giants used today is the one Bruce Bochy will go with on Opening Day as well. Which should please fans of the other NL West teams.

CF Angel Pagan
LF Melky Cabrera
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
1B Aubrey Huff
RF Nate Schierholtz
2B Ryan Theriot
SS Brandon Crawford

Missing, of course, is Brandon Belt, who has only managed to hit .368 with three homers and four doubles in 38 at-bats in Arizona. Huff has come in at .286 with two homers and no doubles in 28 at-bats. But there was never any real reason to think it’d be a fair fight. Huff is still making big money and will likely get a month or two of regular-season playing time to prove that he’s worth it.

The Giants do have the opportunity to go with both Belt and Huff by playing one of the two, most likely Huff, in the outfield. Such a move would probably do more harm than good, though. While the Giants need to get Belt’s bat in there, it makes a lot more sense to play him over Huff than either Pagan or Schierholtz. Neither of those guys are locks to hit, but they are among the league’s better defenders at their positions.

Giants fans just have to hope that if Huff is a liability in the early going, the team doesn’t wait as long as it did with Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada last year to drop him. If the plan is for Posey to see some time at first base, then Huff would quickly become an unnecessary part. The Giants could use Belt at first base against righties and young Hector Sanchez as their catcher against lefties, with Posey switching between the two positions.

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)
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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.