Wandy Rodriguez lasted just four innings against the Padres on Saturday, allowing five runs to give him a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 outings, and afterward Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail suggested that the left-hander is distracted by trade rumors.
“We saw it last year when we were going through it and his name kept coming up,” Brocail said, via Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. “He gets a little nervous about that. I try to tell him it’s nothing you can control, But I see it because I’m with him every day and talk to him every day. I just think that lately his mind’s been elsewhere, and we need to work on that.”
Rodriguez has been one of the best, most underrated starters in the National League, posting ERAs of 3.54, 3.02, 3.60, and 3.49 from 2008-2011, so when he struggles it’s natural to search for a reason. And while Brocail is right that Rodriguez also struggled some around the trade deadline last season, posting a 4.94 ERA in July, he also had a 3.32 ERA in August while rumors continued to swirl around him leading up the waiver trade deadline.
The funny thing about baseball is that when Rodriguez posted a 2.14 ERA in his first 10 starts this season no one searched for reasons why he was clearly out-performing his career norms, yet when he’s posted a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 starts now his reaction to trade rumors is viewed as the cause. Both the 2.14 ERA early and the 5.65 recently are basically equally out of line from his established track record, and if you add them up Rodriguez has a 3.75 ERA overall this season. His combined ERA during the previous five seasons? 3.63.
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.