Paul Konerko

Paul Konerko unsure about playing next season

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Earlier this month Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that Paul Konerko was “telling friends that he definitely wants to return to the White Sox next year and believes he can still be productive.”

However, it now sounds like the 37-year-old first baseman may be having second thoughts, telling Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago:

The last couple of times, and especially in 2005, there was no doubt I would play again. I understand the inquiries about my future and why people want to know. At the same time, it is still about doing my job; I don’t want to get ahead of myself. What is the rush, is the way I feel. There are certain things I don’t feel obligated to give out [or] tell people. There are some things that are private, and some people take it the wrong way.

My immediate reaction to that quote is to think Konerko plans to retire, because if he were simply going to come back for an 18th season would it really be that big of a secret? That’s just me trying to read between some lines, of course.

Konerko has had a miserable year, missing time with injuries and hitting just .248 with 11 homers and a career-worst .674 OPS in 121 games after topping an .840 OPS in each of the past four seasons. He’ll be a free agent this offseason, so even if he plans to return in 2014 it’ll almost surely have to be on an incentive-laden one-year contract and it’d be hard to blame the rebuilding White Sox if they weren’t all that interested.

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.