When the Marlins included John Buck in their blockbuster deal with the Blue Jays in December, they were mostly happy to get rid of his salary. He was later considered a throw-in as part of the deal that brought top prospects Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for R.A. Dickey. However, the 32-year-old backstop has been one of the hottest hitters in the majors so far this season.
Buck launched a grand slam in last night’s 16-5 win over the Twins and is now hitting .351 (13-for-37) with six home runs through 10 games. This includes home runs in each of his last four games. He’s already halfway to his total of 12 homers from all of last season.
Buck is currently tied with the Orioles’ Chris Davis for the major league lead with 19 RBI. Meanwhile, the Marlins have only scored 17 runs through their first 10 games. And things aren’t going to get any easier if Giancarlo Stanton needs to miss an extended period of time with a shoulder injury.
Buck is a .237/.303/.410 hitter over 10 seasons in the major leagues, so he’s bound to cool off pretty soon, but the hot start will make it a little easier to justify keeping d’Arnaud with Triple-A Las Vegas until June.
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.