Phillies spring training as off to a spectacular start. The offense is pretty awful. Pitchers are getting hurt. Jimmy Rollins is having one of his occasional spats with his manager about his perceived effort.
Rollins, despite being healthy, has been out of the lineup for three straight days, with Freddy Galvis taking his place. When asked about that yesterday, Sandberg sounded frustrated with Rollins. Specifically, after he praised Freddy Galvis for his “energy” and his “positive influence on everyone around him,” he offered a “no comment” when asked if Rollins provides such things.
This morning reporters found Rollins and asked him about Sandberg’s “no comment.” Rollins said he had no problem with Sandberg and that he’s the manager, so “he gets to have the last say.” But he also made it clear that he disagreed with Sandberg, saying “everyone is allowed to have their opinion. That doesn’t make it right.”
It’s probably worth noting at this point that Sandberg has taken some behind the scenes criticism for approaching spring training in a rather intense manner. When I was in Clearwater last week Sandberg had the entire team out on the field on a gameday doing cutoff and infield drills on the main field. It was noted by some around me — people who have observed the Phillies for several years — that it was pretty unusual for them to do that, and that perhaps Sandberg was trying to send a message or make a point at best, trying way too hard at worst. That it was a little drill sergeanty for the first week of March with a veteran team.
Which makes me wonder how much of this is about Jimmy Rollins being Jimmy Rollins — a guy who has butted heads with managers and has been criticized for lack of effort in the past — and how much of this is about Ryne Sandberg being at an 11 when most players would expect him to be at a 6.
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.