Barring an amazing hot streak to overtake the Nationals in the NL East the Braves will be matched up against the other Wild Card team in a one-game playoff and Chipper Jones is not a big fan of the idea.
“I think it’s stupid, to be honest with you,” Jones said today, via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Jones went on to say that he understands the appeal and drama of the one-game playoff, but the 40-year-old future Hall of Famer with 92 career postseason games played thinks one game is too much of a crap shoot:
But Major Lague Baseball wants a bunch of teams in the playoffs. There’s nothing like cut-throat baseball for the fans. And people love that 163rd regular-season game. They’ve loved it in the past. I’m sure that’s probably what’s promoted a second wild-card team. I wish they would’ve done it a year earlier so we would have had a chance last year. But it is what it is.
You say to yourself, we could possibly have the second- or third-best record in the National League when the season’s over and we have to play a one-game playoff just to get in. That doesn’t seem fair because anything can happen. Now if you were to say the two wild-card teams will play a best two-out-of-three, I’d be OK with that. … I think it’s more fair from a standpoint that anything can happen in one game – a blown call by an umpire, a bad day at the office … at least in a two-of-three-game series you have some sort of leeway.
That’s a very stat-heady, Billy Beane-like take on the whole thing (you know, small sample sizes and all). I tend to agree with Chipper and wonder how the overall reaction to the Wild Card-related changes in the postseason format will change if a team like the Braves wins, say, 93 games only to lose a one-game playoff to a team with, say, 85 wins.
They’re basically coin-flipping to get into the “real” playoffs and that’s an awful lot of fun to watch, no doubt, but it’s going to make for some very disappointed losing teams.
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.