Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians

The Indians want Jason Giambi back next year, no matter what

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Jason Giambi will be 43 years-old next season and he has not been a full-time player since he left the Yankees following the 2008 campaign. But, unlike so many younger guys (and unlike a lot of better hitters) Giambi will not have to search around for a roster spot next spring. Indeed, on Monday both Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona said they’d love to have him back:

“We would like to continue our relationship with ‘G’ probably as long as he would like to,” Francona said Monday . . . If Giambi for whatever reason does decide to hang it up, Antonetti stated he will have a spot to come back and be a part of the Indians in a coaching capacity.

“If Jason, once he gets to that point where he no longer wants to play we’d love to have him with this organization,” Antonetti said.

Antonetti added, though, that he knows Giambi wants to play and that that’s fine with him.

Even last spring, when he was new to the Indians, you could tell that Terry Francona and the coaching staff loved having Giambi around. Francona and Nick Swisher both told me when I visited Indians camp that Giambi was like having another coach around. A coach who could, on occasion, hit walkoff home runs in the midst of a pennant race. Not a bad combo.

Of course that doesn’t mean that Giambi is the wisest use of a roster spot purely in terms of production. Despite his occasional heroics he hit just .183/.282/.371 in 216 plate appearances. That wouldn’t fly with most players, but it would seem that what Giambi brings in terms of mentorship, veteran presence and those sorts of things continue to make him valuable in the eyes of Antonetti and Francona. Their team, their call.

But whatever his merits, I continue to marvel at Giambi’s late career. It’s so rare to see guys who were once MVP-caliber players transform into role players — very narrow role players — as thoroughly as Giambi has. If he plays next year it will be his seventh as a bench bat/DH type in what will by then be a 20-year major league career. Who else has done that?

He obviously doesn’t need the money. And nothing he is doing now is going to lead to much more than fleeting fame or glory as a ballplayer (those days have passed).  He’s just doing it, it seems, because he loves (and maybe needs) baseball. And because everyone around him values him and wants him around too. And there’s something fantastic about that.

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.