Like a college student cramming before a big exam, the Orioles are desperately trying to put together a competitive roster before spring training exhibition games begin. We learned earlier that the O’s were showing interest in Ervin Santana even after having signed Ubaldo Jimenez, and that they were “intensifying their interest” in DH Kendrys Morales.
You can add another name to the list. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Orioles have been talking to Nelson Cruz in their search for a hitter. Heyman writes that the Orioles “seem likely” to land either Cruz or Morales. They don’t have to worry about giving up their #17 pick anymore, as they already relinquished it having signed Jimenez. Now, they would have to give up their second round pick, 55th overall, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
Cruz served a 50-game suspension starting in early August last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz also has health concerns, having played in no more than 128 games from 2009-11. Additionally, he is 33 years old, which along with his associated draft pick compensation, made it tough for teams to justify handing him the big contract he was hoping to find earlier in the off-season.
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.