Mike Napoli

Rangers clinch postseason berths for themselves, Orioles and Yankees

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After a rare Joe Nathan blown save and a rough loss in the opener, the Rangers came back to beat the Angels 8-7 in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader and clinch at least a wild card berth.

Mike Napoli again made some noise against his former team, homering twice and matching his career high with six RBI. He’s hit .396 with 12 homers, 10 doubles and 19 walks in 111 at-bats versus the Halos in two years as a member of the Rangers.

The Rangers’ outburst gave Derek Holland a win after he allowed seven runs in 6 2/3 innings. He became the fifth pitcher this season to give up seven runs in a win. One of the previous four was Ervin Santana, who took the loss for the Angels tonight. He gave up six runs in 2 2/3 innings to end the regular season 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA.

The result clinched postseason berths for the Orioles and Yankees (both 92-67), as the Angels (88-71) are no longer possibility to overtake either with three games remaining. The Angels also fell three back of the A’s (91-68) with three to play.

The Rangers (93-66) head to Oakland with a two-game lead in the AL West. The A’s must win only one of the three games to clinch a wild card berth and eliminate the Angels and Rays (88-71).

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.