The committee to choose a successor to MLB commissioner Bud Selig has officially been formed. It is being chaired by Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt and will have six owners on it. They will not consult an outside search firm. DeWitt’s comments moments ago about what they intend to do:
That last bit speaks to both Selig’s style — he was all about consensus — but also causes me some confusion here.
Selig has clearly set up Rob Manfred to be his successor. He named him COO last year. He headed up the Biogenesis investigation. He made the media rounds with Selig to take credit for blasting A-Rod into the stone age. He has tons of experience with labor negotiations and has long been Selig’s right-hand man.
But no one has ever described him as “visionary” and if Selig always gets his 30-0 vote, why not just rubber stamp Manfred rather than conduct a search like this?
It’s possible that this is all formality and that the purpose of the committee is, in fact, to ratify Selig’s wishes, only in a slightly more formalized manner so as to show the world that the owners still run things. But maybe — just maybe — it shows that the owners aren’t all that thrilled with Rob Manfred and want to see if there’s someone a bit sexier out there before settling on old Rob.
That approach has rarely worked in the past — it’s what stuck MLB with William Eckert and Peter Ueberroth. But it appears that the owners are at least open to that possibility.
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.