The Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay — a very professional beat reporter who doesn’t dabble in nonsense — reported last week that the Reds will likely shop second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter. Which makes sense in a lot of ways. Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four seasons and posted a weak .706 OPS (92 OPS+) in 151 games this year — his lofty RBI total a product of Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips is still an elite defensive second baseman, but he’s turning 33 next June and some of that athleticism will inevitably fade.
Phillips also rubbed many in the organization the wrong way this summer with his multiple off-field incidents. There was the ugly dust-up with Enquirer baseball writer C. Trent Rosecrans and the article in Cincinnati Magazine where Phillips complained about Votto being the first to have his contract extended. Here’s a new column on the coming trade talks from Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News, who says there is a “For Sale sign on Phillips’ neck” …
While Phillips is popular with fans through his Twitter account and his willingness to sign autographs, he is not so popular in the clubhouse and is thought of as a self-promoter.
Said one man who is in the clubhouse every day, “You can’t tell by Brandon’s face whether we won or lost, but you can tell if he went 0 for 4 or 2 for 4 no matter if we won or lost.”
AND IT DID PHILLIPS no good when he disappeared in September — 18 for 95 (.175), four RBI, one home run, three doubles as his team collapsed into the rubbish pile.
There’s plenty more where that came from — so much of so that it’s difficult to envision Phillips suiting up for the Reds next March. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution hears the Braves have interest.
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.