The Athletics made a pair of roster moves this morning, activating right-hander Brandon McCarthy from the 15-day disabled list while demoting first baseman Daric Barton to Triple-A Sacramento.
McCarthy hasn’t pitched since May 17 due to a strained right shoulder. The 28-year-old has battled shoulder problems at various points during his career, but he managed to make it back in the minimum 15 days and will start this afternoon against the Royals.
After reinventing himself last season while posting a surprising 3.32 ERA across 25 starts, McCarthy has an excellent 2.95 ERA and 40/16 K/BB ratio in nine starts this year. He has averaged just 1.61 BB/9 since the start of last season, which is fifth-lowest among starters with at least 200 innings pitched.
As for Barton, he has really struggled in his first season back from surgery to repair a torn labrum in right shoulder, batting just .198/.325/.283 with one homer and a .608 OPS in 126 plate appearances. The 26-year-old appeared to be a useful piece for the A’s after leading the American League in walks back in 2010, but he has a lousy .208/.325/.272 batting line since. Kila Ka’aihue will handle starting first base duties for now.
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.