Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak

Is it time for Mariners to demote Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak to Triple-A?

9 Comments

Thanks in large part to Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders, the Mariners offense hasn’t been as bad as expected this year. The team is struggling mightily right now, though, having scored just four runs in four games, and if changes are going to come, this would seem to be right part of the schedule to make them.

Dustin Ackley is hitting just .220 with two extra-base hits in 82 at-bats this month. He is walking quite a bit, but he’s also striking out a whole lot. With 24 strikeouts this month, he’s up to 67 in 281 at-bats for the season. Overall, he’s hitting .242/.318/.335.

Justin Smoak is doing even worse, and the homers are no longer obscuring that fact. He’s gone hitless in five straight games, leaving him at .206/.268/.341 for the season. He does have 11 homers in 267 at-bats, but they’re not making up for the absence of singles and doubles. In fact, he has just three doubles all season.

The Mariners are currently prepared to stay the course, manager Eric Wedge told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Which makes sense. They weren’t expected to contend in the AL West this year anyway, and they don’t have any obvious upgrades awaiting in the minors. For all of Ackley’s struggles lately, he’s still not having that awful of a season. He has a respectable .722 OPS outside of Safeco. Smoak, if nothing else, is on pace for 23 homers and 67 RBI.

If the Mariners did make a move, it’d be more along the lines of a wake-up call than anything else. They know Ackley is the future at second base. They still have to figure out whether Smoak is a long-term answer. They certainly want him to be, but he now has 1,042 major league at-bats and a career OPS of .677. With Mike Zunino drafted to be the catcher of the future, the Mariners could move on from Smoak if he fails to improve and go to Jesus Montero at first base.

But nothing is happening right now. There isn’t really anyone to replace Ackley in Triple-A. Alex Liddi could step in at first if needed, but he’s a weaker bet than Smoak. If Smoak is still slumping when Mike Carp is ready to come off the DL, perhaps in three or four weeks, then maybe the Mariners will make the change. As is, they’re just going to hope for the best.

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)
Getty Images
6 Comments

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
8 Comments

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.