Joe Mauer

Joe Mauer, David Wright commit to Team USA for WBC

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We’ll hear plenty about players opting out of the World Baseball Classic over the next couple of months. How about a couple of guys that are in: Minnesota’s Joe Mauer and the Mets’ David Wright.

The Mauer commitment makes it less of a big deal now if Buster Posey decides not to play for Team USA in March. A Mauer-Posey tag team would be awesome, but Mauer starting with Matt Wieters as a backup would be pretty good as well.

Wright is one of Team USA’s two best options at third base, Evan Longoria being the other. Longoria’s status for the tournament is clear.

The WBC announced 28 commitments in all today. Along with the two for the USA are:

Australia: Liam Hendriks, Grant Balfour
Brazil: Yan Gomes, Andre Rienzo
Canada: Justin Morneau
Chinese Taipei: Hong-Chih Kuo
China: Wei Wang, Ray Chang
Dominican Republic: Robinson Cano, Jose Reyes
Italy: Jason Grilli, Alex Liddi
Japan: Masahiro Tanaka, Shinnosuke Abe
Korea: Seung Yeop Lee, Dan Ho Lee
Mexico: Adrian Gonzalez, Sergio Romo
Netherlands: Andruw Jones, Roger Bernadina
Puerto Rico: Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina
Spain: Engel Beltre, Francisco Figueroa
Venezuela: Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval

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)
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.