Coco Crisp Reuters

The Athletics win in walk-off fashion again

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I’d be lying if I said I stayed up to watch the very end of this, but the Athletics topped the Blue Jays 5-4 in 15 innings last night — or, early this morning, depending on your time zone — for their major-league leading 13th walk-off win of the season. Coco Crisp played the role of hero, delivering a sacrifice fly to score Jemile Weeks, who led off the 15th with a triple.

Dan Straily ended up getting a no-decision in his major league debut. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed just one run on five hits and a walk over six innings while striking out five. While he got away with a few pitches, he looked plenty good, especially with his changeup.

The A’s handed a 4-1 lead to closer Ryan Cook in this one, but he gave up a game-tying three-run homer to Jeff Mathis with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. Yes, that Jeff Mathis. However, Jerry Blevins, the newly-acquired Pat Neshek, Sean Doolittle and Travis Blackley combined for six innings of shutout relief until Crisp’s game-winning sacrifice fly. Blackley, who was moved to the bullpen to make room for Straily, had three shutout frames and notched the win.

This was actually the A’s second 15-inning victory this week, as they defeated the Rays 4-3 on Monday night behind a sacrifice fly from Weeks. According to the Associated Press, the Athletics are the first team to play a pair of 15-inning games in a five-day span since the Dodgers in 2006.

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.