Depending on who does what tonight, this could change, but at the moment, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout are #1 and #2 in Wins Above Replacement at the moment, according to FanGraphs. Cabrera is at 4.4 and Trout is at 4.3. Cabrera, who achieved baseball’s first Triple Crown in 45 years, beat out Trout for the award last year after a very heated series of debates among writers and fans, pitting traditional stats against Sabermetrics.
Thankfully, Chris Davis, Evan Longoria, and Manny Machado have also crossed the 4-WAR barrier thus far. If any one of the three can keep pace with Cabrera and Trout by season’s end, it may save us from having to relive last off-season’s undying debate.
Hilariously enough, though Cabrera once again leads the league in batting average and RBI, Davis leads Cabrera by seven home runs at the moment, meaning that Cabrera may not win another Triple Crown. If you compare Cabrera’s production thus far to last year, though, he is producing more this year, having improved 29 points in average, 57 points in on-base percentage, and 24 points in slugging percentage. In fact, his Triple Crown year may be the worst, statistically, of Cabrera’s last four seasons.
It’s way too early to think about the end-of-season awards, what with about 55 percent of the regular season left to play, but it’s interesting to ponder.
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.