Former Mets general manager Frank Cashen — the man who built the 1986 World Series champs — has died at age 88. Mets owner Fred Wilpon released a statement:
“On behalf of all of us at the Mets, we extend our deepest condolences to Jean Cashen and her entire family. Frank Cashen revitalized our franchise when he took over in 1980 as general manager and helped engineer us to a world championship in 1986.
“I dealt with Frank on a daily basis and he was a man of integrity and great passion. No one had a more diverse career than Frank. He was also a lawyer, sports writer and marketing executive. His accomplishments will always be an integral part of our team history.”
Among Cashen’s key moves in building the Met teams of the mid-to-late 80s: acquiring Keith Hernandez from the Cardinals, trading for Gary Carter and helping build a farm system that produced a number of great talents like Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry.
Cashen’s legacy is not just with the Mets, however. As Wilpon’s statement noted, he was a lawyer and a well-respected sports writer before getting into baseball. He leveraged a job with a Baltimore brewer into one with the Orioles when the brewer, National Brewing Company, bought the team. Cashen and his general manager, Harry Dalton, engineered the Frank Robinson trade, hied Earl Weaver and laid the groundwork that brought the Orioles championships in 1966 and 1970 and won pennants in 1969 and 1970 as well. After some time out of baseball, he joined MLB’s offices under Bowie Kuhn before moving on to the Mets.
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.