Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera played with a sore groin throughout most of the second half of the season, limiting his ability to defend his Triple Crown. The soreness has continued to bother him throughout the post-season both at the plate and defensively at third base. Opposing teams have considered attacking him with bunts, but Cabrera has adjusted by playing way up on the grass against speedier players. He is hitting .278 with one home run in the ALCS against the Red Sox after hitting .250 with one homer in the ALDS against the Athletics.
Manager Jim Leyland laments that Cabrera isn’t fully healthy, depriving fans of seeing one of this generation’s greatest hitters. Via Tim Healey of WEEI:
“It’s really a shame, to be honest with you, for the whole baseball world because they’re not getting a chance to see him at his best,” Leyland said of Cabrera. “This time of year, people are turning on the TV, they love to see these guys. Obviously I think he’s the best player in the league. To not be able to see him at his best because of a physical ailment, it hurts a little bit, but that’s just the way it is. You have to live with those things.”
“It kind of breaks your heart, to be honest with you, to see him out there the way he has to be out there and the way he is right now because you know he’s hurting,” Leyland added later. “Everybody is conscientious these days about people earning their money. You talk about somebody who is earning their money, this guy feels like he owes it to the Detroit Tigers and our fans to be out there”
Should the Tigers get pushed out of the playoffs, either in Game 6 or Game 7, it won’t be the fault of Cabrera’s ailing groin, however. While he may be injured, he has still been among the more productive Tigers hitters. First baseman Prince Fielder has just four hits in 19 at-bats in the ALCS, none of them homers. Torii Hunter is hitting .217. Austin Jackson has five hits, all singles. Omar Infante is hitting .176.
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.