Well, this is a surprise.
Most have assumed that Zack Wheeler’s major league debut will wait until 2013. Odds are it still will, but Mets manager Terry Collins hasn’t ruled out the possibility that it could happen sooner.
According to Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal, Collins told reporters this afternoon that Wheeler is “not out of the mix” for a promotion to the majors this year. Collins made the comments while discussing Matt Harvey as a potential replacement for Dillon Gee, who had surgery Friday to replace a portion of a damaged artery in his throwing shoulder.
Wheeler, who was acquired from the Giants last July for Carlos Beltran, is on the brink of a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo after posting a 2.62 ERA and 88/35 K/BB ratio in 92 2/3 innings over 15 starts at the Double-A level this year. Baseball America recently ranked him as the No. 10 prospect in the game on their midseason list. The 22-year-old right-hander is quickly approaching his career-high of 115 innings from last year and Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes that he’s expected to be capped around 150 innings. Obviously Collins would love the help at the major league level, but Mets general manager Sandy Alderson could have a different opinion on the matter.
While it would probably take a unique set of circumstances for Wheeler to make his way to the majors this year, Harvey could be up as soon as next week. According to Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger, Mets manager Terry Collins gave the impression that Harvey’s next start with Triple-A Buffalo on Monday will essentially function as an audition to pitch one week from today against the Dodgers. No pressure, kid.
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.