In looking at Shane Victorino’s future last night, I concluded that he wasn’t a bad bet to last as a quality regular for a few more years, in spite of his down 2012 season.
Still, I wouldn’t have recommended wagering $39 million on it.
That’s the gamble the Red Sox took today in committing to Victorino for his age 32-34 seasons. At $13 million per year, it’s hard to imagine him being any sort of bargain. The best-case scenario would seem to have him being worth just what the Red Sox paid for him.
On the other hand, the Red Sox may well have been able to sign B.J. Upton for $16 million per year for his age 28-32 seasons. That comes with some risk as well, but at least Upton has several prime years left and has shown tantalizing glimpses of superstar potential. Victorino’s slide last year suggested that he may be just one or two years away from becoming a fourth outfielder.
So, no, I don’t get this deal. The Red Sox won 69 games last year behind three 90-win clubs in the AL East and a Toronto team that has taken a huge step forward this winter. They’re not a slightly above average right fielder and a quality first baseman away from returning to the postseason. It would have been worth rolling the dice with Upton or maybe even Josh Hamilton if his market didn’t play out as hoped, but barring that, they could have given Ryan Kalish a try and then reevaluated the position next winter.
In the last month, the Red Sox have committed multiyear deals to Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and David Ross to the tune of $34 million per season. They’re probably going to spend another $12 million or so per season on a starting pitcher from the Ryan Dempster genre. That they’re making the team better is a given. That they’re making it better enough to actually go anywhere in 2013 seems pretty unlikely.
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.