Today the Red Sox play their annual Patriot’s Day morning game. And today is the Boston Marathon. Emotions at both locations will run high.
Last year, the Red Sox beat the Rays in a walkoff win. As that game was ending, everything was changing. As the team headed to the airport for their flight to the next city and next series, news of the Boston Marathon bombings spread and the entire city of Boston was shaken. There was fear and confusion and sorrow but, a few days later when the Red Sox got back to town, those feelings were met with strength and resolve. They were met with David Ortiz’s stirring speech to Red Sox fans and the city as a whole: “This is OUR F***in’ City!” he said. And with that, Boston Strong came to define the Red Sox season
Which isn’t to say that what happened at the Marathon was about the Red Sox or that everything the Red Sox do is about the Marathon. But it is undeniable that the Red Sox served as a rallying point and welcome diversion from the horror that was visited upon the city last Patriot’s Day. And that the tragedy of the bombings and the example the city set in the wake helped inspire the team. I’m sure every city would rally strongly if such a thing were to occur there — we’ve, unfortunately, seen cities have to do that in the past — but it just served as another reminder of how particularly close the Red Sox and Boston are. How the bond between sports and the city as a whole may be stronger in Boston than a lot of places, for a lot of reasons.
Last night the heroes of the aftermath of the bombings were remembered at Fenway Park in an official ceremony. I suspect that, later this morning, there will be many more unofficial remembrances to go along with it as the Red Sox take the field on a beautiful Patriot’s Day. In a city that could not be defeated and I suspect cannot be defeated.
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.