Xander Bogaerts

No, the Red Sox aren’t trading Xander Bogaerts for Cliff Lee

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Cliff Lee is pretty terrific. He’s currently 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA. He’s on pace for a sixth straight season of 200 innings pitched, and his worst ERA in that span is a 3.22 mark. Since 2008, he has the second best ERA+ or anyone to throw 500 innings, coming in a bit behind Clayton Kershaw. Lee is also 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA in 11 postseason starts.

Lee’s contract is less terrific. The Phillies backloaded it so that they could get away with paying him just $11 million in 2011. As a result, he’ll make $25 million in both 2014 and ’15. Worse is his option for 2016. It can vest at $27.5 million, which isn’t so terribly bad. But it has a $12.5 million buyout attached to it, which is going to be an awfully big hit for a team to take if Lee falls apart at some point within the next two years.

So, basically, any team that trades for Lee is going to be paying market value for his services. And if you’re going to pay market value for his services, there’s no way it makes any sense to give up one of the top 10 prospects in baseball for him.

Xander Bogaerts is considered the best prospect the Red Sox have produced since Hanley Ramirez. In truth, he’s a better prospect than Ramirez was, since there were always questions about Ramirez’s work ethic and ego as he climbed the ladder. Bogaerts might not be quite as talented as Ramirez, but he’s close. He’s hit .311/.407/.502 in 56 games in Double-A and .279/.380/.483 in 41 games in Triple-A this year at the tender age of 20. He’s also turned himself into a pretty good shortstop through hard work. It used to be assumed that he’d outgrow the position and move to third base. That’s still a possibility, and the Red Sox have recently given him starts at third in Triple-A in order to determine whether he can help them this year. But he has shown enough at shortstop to suggest that he could last there for at least his first few major league seasons.

The Red Sox won themselves a World Series by trading Ramirez to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, but they haven’t been back there since 2007 and maybe they would have been if they had kept Hanley and Anibal Sanchez around. Of course, they’d still do it all over again and they’d be right to. If trading Bogaerts for Cliff Lee assured them of a World Series victory this year, they’d do that, too.

But it doesn’t. Lee, for all of his postseason success, has never pitched for a World Series winner. That doesn’t reflect on him, just on the crapshoot that is the postseason. Lee is great, but he doesn’t swing the odds enough. If a lesser package could bring him in, the Red Sox might bite. It probably won’t, so they’ll simply make do. 6 2/3 seasons of Bogaerts for the right to pay Lee either $70 million through 2015 or $85 million through 2016 just doesn’t work.

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)
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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.