Weight of the World

It’s “Oh, how heavy a burden it is to vote for the Hall of Fame” season

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I think my least favorite type of baseball columns are the ones in which the writer talks about the heavy, heavy burden of his Hall of Fame vote. We’re baseball writers for Pete’s sake. We’re not making life or death decisions. Not that you’d know it from some of these pieces, though. Check out Steve Simmons’ heavy, heavy burden:

Every year seems to get more difficult, more complicated, more conflicted and less certain about voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame and every year I make a list and scratch names off it, then make another list and do the same again. All the while, wrestling with what you perceive to be right and wrong, what your own beliefs happens to be, angry that baseball has left the writers to play the part of jury and all the while trying to find balance between what you believe, what you witnessed, what you think you know, what prejudices you may have, real or imagined, what you have determined statistically — with new stats and old stats.

What follows are several paragraphs of PED/Hall of Fame/Oh-my-this-is-so-morally-vexing wankery. After which Simmons decides that he can’t vote for PED guys for the Hall of Fame. Which is fine if that’s how you roll with the PED issue. I disagree with it, but as long as someone is consistent with their approach and doesn’t make baseless assumptions and crap, all I’ll do is disagree. It won’t get me too bent out of shape.

But what I really don’t get is, if you are an anti-PED voter, what’s so hard about this? If anything, it should be pretty easy. You’ve made a moral judgment, apply it. All of the self-flagellation about it seems like silly drama designed to fill column inches.

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)
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.