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Looking ahead to NLDS Game 3: Braves-Dodgers

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The Cardinals and Pirates will open this day of postseason baseball at 4:30 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh. As those two National League Central teams are wrapping things up at PNC Park, the Braves and Dodgers — tied at 1-1 in their best-of-five — will be preparing to get Game 3 underway in Los Angeles. Let’s preview the action-to-come at Dodger Stadium.

Julio Teheran earned a spot in Atlanta’s starting rotation with a sensational spring and kept right on rolling through the regular season, posting a 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 170/45 K/BB ratio in 185 2/3 frames. The 22-year-old righty from Colombia boasts a mid-to-low 90s fastball that he throws on over 63 percent of his deliveries and a slider, curve and changeup that carry varying degrees of effectiveness. Teheran was ranked a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America in four different preseasons and has the raw goods to put up zeroes at any time against any lineup. But he’s one of the youngest starters in this tournament and this will be his first time pitching in an October game.

Also pitching for the first time in the Major League Baseball playoffs will be Dodgers Game 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, a 26-year-old offseason import from South Korea. It seemed like an overpay when the Dodgers put up a $25.74 million posting fee for Ryu in November and then handed the left-hander a six-year, $36 million contract. But 11 months later that deal looks like a bargain. Ryu registered a superb 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 154/49 K/BB ratio over his first 192 major league innings this season and the conditioning concerns that arose early in spring camp never developed into anything more than baseball blog fodder.

Ryu was spotted wearing a sleeve on his left elbow last week and he threw a bullpen session Friday in front of team surgeon Neal ElAttrache, medical director Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly. But the Dodgers are denying that there is an injury and Ryu reported feeling completely fine after his Friday workout.

The lineups should be posted at some point this afternoon. We wouldn’t expect any big surprises.

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.