Making official what was reported as a done deal yesterday afternoon, the Red Sox just announced that Bobby Valentine has been fired as manager.
Signed to a two-year, $5 million deal to replace Terry Francona, Valentine spent the year making headlines for all the wrong reasons and seemingly rubbed key players the wrong way almost immediately.
It also didn’t help that the team was terrible on the field, showing Red Sox fans that things could get significantly worse than what was viewed as a pretty miserable situation during Francona’s final season at the helm.
Boston went 69-93 under Valentine for the franchise’s worst winning percentage since 1965. General manager Ben Cherington will now begin his second manager search in one year on the job, the first of which resulted in paying Valentine $5 million for six months of work (of course, who exactly made the final decision to hire Valentine is in question).
In a press release, Cherington noted that “with an historic number of injuries, Bobby was dealt a difficult hand” and added that “he did the best he could under seriously adverse circumstances, and I am thankful to him.”
Meanwhile, team president Larry Lucchino called it “a season of agony” and promised “more [changes] will come” because “we are determined to fix that which is broken and return the Red Sox to the level of success we have experienced over the past decade.”
As for Cherington’s status, owner John Henry said: “We have confidence in Ben Cherington and the kind of baseball organization he is determined to build.”
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.