Because the Cardinals have been just as hot and currently hold the top spot in the National League Central standings, the Reds’ run of success over the past couple of weeks has flown somewhat under the radar.
Cincinnati was at it again on Saturday evening at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, routing the host Phillies by a score of 10-0. Joey Votto reached base in all six of his plate appearances, pushing his batting line to .346/.473/.531. Bronson Arroyo tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings and now has a 1.86 ERA in three May starts. Even Jay Bruce, who had well-documented struggles in April, is starting to come alive this month with a .999 OPS and 16 RBI in 14 games.
The Reds, 26-17 overall, have won 13 of their last 17 games and trail St. Louis by only a game and a half in the NL Central. That should be an excellent back-and-forth all year.
Your Saturday box scores and recaps:
Mariners 4, Indians 5
Blue Jays 2, Yankees 7
Mets 2, Cubs 8
Rays 10, Orioles 6
White Sox 9, Angels 12
Reds 10, Phillies 0
Astros 4, Pirates 2 (11 innings)
Red Sox 12, Twins 5
Dodgers 1, Braves 3
Diamondbacks 1, Marlins 0
Brewers 6, Cardinals 4 (10 innings)
Tigers 2, Rangers 7
Giants 2, Rockies 10
Nationals 1, Padres 2
Royals 1, Athletics 2
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.