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The Cardinals had a middling 58-55 record as late as Aug. 8, yet a blistering stretch run saw St. Louis win the NL Central and end a three-year (lengthy by Cardinals standards) postseason drought. The Cards also defeated the Braves in the NLDS before falling to the Nationals in the NLCS, and the one-sided nature of that NLCS sweep continued the somewhat inconsistent nature of the Cardinals’ season. The focus will clearly be on upgrading the offense as the Cards look to take a step forward and get back to the World Series in 2020.
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B: $130MM through 2024
- Miles Mikolas, SP: $68MM through 2023
- Matt Carpenter, 1B/3B: $39MM through 2021 (includes $2MM buyout of $18.5MM club/vesting option for 2022)
- Dexter Fowler, OF: $33MM through 2021
- Carlos Martinez, SP/RP: $23.5MM through 2021 (includes $500K buyout of $17MM club option for 2022; Cards also have $18MM club option for 2023 with $500K buyout)
- Paul DeJong, SS: $22.5MM through 2023 (includes $2MM buyout of $12.5MM club option for 2024; Cards also have $15MM club option for 2025 with $1MM buyout)
- Yadier Molina, C: $20MM through 2020
- Andrew Miller, RP: $14MM through 2020 (includes $2.5MM buyout of $12MM club/vesting option for 2021)
- Kolten Wong, 2B: $11.25MM through 2020 (includes $1MM buyout of $12.5MM club option for 2021)
- Brett Cecil, RP: $7MM through 2020
- Jose Martinez, 1B/OF: $2MM through 2020
- $4MM owed to the Mariners as part of the Mike Leake trade in August 2017
Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
- Dominic Leone – $1.6MM
- John Gant – $1.4MM
- Non-tender candidates: Leone
Four straight seasons without a playoff berth would’ve led to rumblings about changes within the St. Louis braintrust, though in the wake of the Cardinals’ solid finish, the organization gave contract extensions to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, GM Mike Girsch, and manager Mike Schildt.
The front office now faces the challenge of upgrading a lineup that already has a lot of personnel in place. One look at the “guaranteed contracts” section above indicates how much money the Cards have already invested in position players, but none of that group showed much at the plate in 2019. Paul Goldschmidt led the pack with a modest 116 wRC+, which was the lowest of his nine-year career and perhaps a red flag given how the first baseman was just signed to a pricey five-year extension last spring.
Kolten Wong (108 wRC+), Dexter Fowler (103), Jose Martinez (101), Paul DeJong (100), Matt Carpenter (95), and Yadier Molina (87) all fell into the average-to-disappointing range in terms of offensive production. This isn’t to say that there wasn’t significant value here — Wong and DeJong are arguably the best defensive middle infield combo in baseball, and Fowler’s season actually represented a solid bounce-back after a disastrous 2018 campaign. But with this core group all likely to return in 2020, the Cardinals have only a few empty positions to add some extra pop to the lineup.
The infield is set with Goldschmidt at first base, Wong at second base, DeJong at short, and Carpenter penciled in at third base and looking to rebound from a career-worst year. Carpenter is another player who signed an extension last spring, and while his track record is strong enough that St. Louis likely might have brought him back anyway under the terms of his original contract (an $18.5MM club option for 2020, which became guaranteed under his new extension), there also isn’t any guarantee that he’ll avoid further decline as he enters his age-34 season.
Carpenter’s struggles made Tommy Edman’s emergence all the more critical to the Cardinals’ success in 2019. Edman hit .304/.350/.500 in 349 plate appearances as s rookie, getting increased playing time at third base down the stretch in addition to some time spent at second base and in right field. Edman spent the bulk of his minor league career as a shortstop, making him a valuable multi-positional bench piece for the Cards heading into next season. Ideally, the Cardinals hope to use Edman all over the diamond rather than require him to continually step in at third base, since a resurgent Carpenter would go a long way toward rebuilding the offense.
Fowler can play center field in a pinch but is best suited to right field at this stage of his career, thus leaving Harrison Bader as the Cards’ best in-house option up the middle. Bader’s center field glovework is so outstanding that St. Louis could probably live with him as just a defense-first regular, if the rest of the lineup could better pick up the offensive slack. The Cardinals would be overjoyed if Bader replicated his 2018 numbers (107 wRC+ in 427 PA), but if not, the club could go with some kind of a timeshare with Fowler in center. Fowler did play 377 innings there in 2019.
That still wouldn’t be a big solve in a St. Louis outfield that is full of question marks, though it isn’t to say that the Cardinals are short on personnel. Beyond Fowler, Bader, the defensively-limited Martinez, and utilitymen Edman and Yairo Munoz, there’s also top prospect Tyler O’Neill ready for a longer look, Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena as two more youngsters who looked good in limited action during their rookie seasons, and another star prospect in Dylan Carlson down at Triple-A.
It’s a group that is long on potential, but there isn’t guarantee that that potential will manifest itself in everyday solutions for the 2020 roster. Free agents like Corey Dickerson, Kole Calhoun or other veterans who could be signed to relatively inexpensive shorter-term deals would add some proven ability to the mix.
In terms of longer-term commitments, the Cards have had some recent discussions with Marcell Ozuna’s camp about a possible reunion. The common thinking had long been that the Cardinals would let Ozuna walk in free agency after two decent but unspectacular years in St. Louis, with the Cards collecting a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer that Ozuna is likely to reject.
That extra pick could also make the Cardinals more likely to surrender a pick of their own to sign one of the other nine QO free agents. Of that group, Josh Donaldson has long been a Cardinals target, though signing him would create the problem of what to do with Carpenter. Will Smith would help firm up a bullpen that has some ninth inning questions — if Mozeliak and Girsch aren’t hesitant about committing another big contract to a reliever after the underwhelming results from Brett Cecil and Andrew Miller in St. Louis.
Gerrit Cole will likely fall beyond the Cards’ price range, but Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi or even Stephen Strasburg could be targeted in an effort to further solidify an already strong rotation. Jack Flaherty emerged as the Cardinals’ ace down the stretch, while Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, and Adam Wainwright all provided quality innings.
Wainwright seems likely to be re-signed, but given his age and the shaky peripherals that underlined Hudson’s seemingly sharp 3.35 ERA, one more veteran arm would definitely add some reinforcement to the starting five. Beyond the qualifying offer types, names like Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, or Kyle Gibson would make sense. The grounder-heavy attack of the latter two pitchers would make them particularly good fits for a strong defensive team like the Cardinals.
In terms of in-house rotation depth, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Austin Gomber, or Genesis Cabrera could be deployed as starters or relievers. Former top prospect Alex Reyes is also technically in the mix, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what Reyes could add to the bullpen or rotation after yet another injury-plagued year. At this point, he’s thrown all of 67 1/3 innings between the majors and minors over the past three seasons combined.
Perhaps the more realistic X-factor is Carlos Martinez, who will be given another look as a starting pitcher in Spring Training. Shoulder problems forced Martinez into the bullpen in the last two seasons, though the righty made the most of the situation by delivering some strong numbers in 2019 (3.17 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.94 K/BB over 48 1/3 IP) and even taking over closing duties in the wake of Jordan Hicks’ Tommy John surgery on June 26. Hicks could return late next season.
Depending on what additions are make to the starting five, Martinez might well end up as the closer again, though St. Louis could still look to add another reliever with closing experience to the pen. Smith would be the biggest possible get, but even a lower-tier option like Sergio Romo would be much less costly and perhaps all the cushion the Cardinals need given Martinez’s success in the closer role. Among internal options, Miller has saved some games in the past, and breakout reliever Giovanny Gallegos could also be considered for save situations.
Backup catcher is the most obvious bench need, and re-signing Matt Wieters might be the easiest potential option. The Cards would likely prefer Wieters or another experienced backstop ahead of Andrew Knizner, who made his MLB debut last season and has been tabbed as the Cardinals’ catcher of the future….assuming the ageless Molina ever retires, that is. Molina is looking for a rebound season after his play, particularly his offense, was hampered by thumb problems in 2019.
One wrinkle to the team’s underachieving play for much of the season is that St. Louis might already have a good idea about what some of its assets might net on the trade market. Such players as Carlos Martinez, Jose Martinez, O’Neill, Thomas, and more were mentioned in trade rumors last summer and even last offseason. Given the crowded roster, one can certainly make the case that the Cardinals are well-suited to be a popular figure in trade negotiations this winter.
Aside from Goldschmidt, Flaherty, Molina, and probably Mikolas and Gallegos, it could be argued that every player on the Cardinals’ big league roster could be a trade candidate, depending on how big a splash the club feels it needs. Packaging a young outfielder with Fowler to clear the outfield logjam and get Fowler’s contract off the books? Likewise, maybe packaging a young player with Carpenter, if another team wants to take the risk on a Carpenter bounce-back? Selling relatively high on Wong or DeJong? There are no shortage of scenarios that could be floated, as the Cardinals have an on-paper surplus at multiple positions and have shown the willingness to spend in free agency to address any other roster holes. Currently, the Cards project to an Opening Day payroll of about $162MM, which would match their Opening Day mark from 2019. Trades could lower that total outlay, of course, and it’s possible that ownership is willing to push a bit further on the heels of an NLCS return.
The Cards have more questions than most teams coming off a League Championship Series appearance, but there’s enough talent on hand and enough potential for future moves that they could be one of the offseason’s more fascinating teams to watch.
To me it comes down to whether or not you trust your scouting and development departments. We have a ton of outfielders and generally develop pitching well, so signing a guy like Dickerson or Calhoun comes down to a probably very marginal upgrade, one you’re paying additional money for when you have options in house. If Arozarena gets you 1.5WAR, you are already doing better than Dickerson would likely get you, and you didn’t have to spend money to get him. Goodness, Ozuna only accumulated wins a little better than that (2.2WAR). There’s no reason to think O’Neill, Thomas, or Arozarena would turn into anything less, and plenty of reason to expect Carlson will turn into more.
Slightly different story for pitching, but still the same theme: trust your scouts. Yeah, the top of the pitching pipe is thin because the Cards have graduated a lot of talent to the majors. But the Cards staff can fill that pitching pipeline back up as well as any organization in the big leagues. Trust that. Don’t overcommit to a risky player, look for something specific. Keuchel would be an interesting choice, lefty, ground ball heavy, I would knock on his door, but also stay away if he wants too many years.
But after this it really doesn’t mean anything if the manager won’t play the young guys. If we keep trotting Fowler and Carpenter out there to “figure it out” for 4+ months, we won’t get lucky again like this year. Shildt played with fire and luckily made it out without too many burns, but if he thinks sticking with that offense for that long is going to work again, he is going to garner a lot of hate real quickly. So, in essence, your scouts don’t matter if the young guys never get a shot. Let Knizner back up Molina. Let Thomas and Randy have a go out in left/center. Let Edman lose the 3B job. Show faith in your young guys. You need them now and you’ll need them even more later.
I think most fans now understand that few managers fill out the lineup on their own now. Upper management sways who plays in a lot of instances, when there’s a large money contract involved. So Carpenter and Fowler are very likely to open the season as starters at 3rd and RF, respectively.
I dig everything you said above. Its a great take! If letting the unproven players play doesn’t work, so be it. It is worth taking the chance. I think all of the players in question have exciting skills.
I concur, mostly. Since there will be 26 guys next year look for the Red Birds to go full platoon. Tommy Edman needs to start somewhere. Why he was so unheralded is a mystery to me. He is a 5-tool player with a Baseball IQ that is off the charts. I happen to be a Dickerson advocate. A left-handed corner outfielder is needed. He could platoon with Martinez. Fowler isn’t going anywhere. Nobody is taking on that contract, and neither will Carpenter. If they make a deal I hope it is O’Neill that moves. Keep Arozarena/Thomas, and also Justin Williams who could get a shot. Maybe Carlson, but my guess he starts in AAA, since he is only 21. I’m not so high on Knizner, He still needs work defensively. Munoz might be the odd man out if the Cards employ 13 pitchers. Cabrera almost certainly will be in the mix, as a starter if Martinez is kept in the pen. Maybe move O’Neill for another bull pen arm. But let Ozuna walk. There are just too many other options, internally. In other words just add somebody like Dickerson, move O’Neill, and little else.
Edman played 92 games. Let him just develop and see how he adapts to major league pitchers who most definitely will make adjustments pitching to him. This time last year, all the hype was about Bader. We all see how he was in 2019.
Bader never really was hyped as a hitter though…everyone liked him but they also knew he couldn’t hit the slider away…Edman hasn’t stopped hitting even in the playoffs
What did Edman do against Washington in the playoffs? And if Bader can’t hit, then he shouldn’t play. That’s why they dumped Bourjos. Why is Bader any different?
One key difference is that Bourjos was awful against both righties and lefties. Bader offers a platoon option because he has hit really well against lefties in both the majors and minors (except for last year).
Spud…you might not like Knizner but Herrera is right behind him…one of the two will replace Molina
To me…..just looking at a picture of Mozeliak makes me think of Laziness, dishonesty, Arrogance, and extremely costly in many directions. However? The Cardinals Ownership love’s Mozeliak’s poor-write off— contracts.
I’ve never been a Fowler fan, but I appreciate the man that he is and I would hope if the Cardinals trade him, they send him to a good situation. Best bet would be the Angels. Maddon as manager, close to home, trains in AZ and a current open slot in RF. Could match up with Adell to keep their top prospect from playing a full slate of games and keep him fresh, and the DH could get him some at-bats instead of playing the field on occasion and get him some rest for his legs.
Angels will go with Goodwin in RF until Adell is brought up. So there really isn’t an opening in their OF. As for DH’ing Fowler, Ohtani and Pujols will get those AB’s.
Maybe a Mexican league team would take Fowler?
Ok, so who do you target from the Angels in exchange for Fowler?
Batting practice ball, maybe? That might be an overpay on the Angels part.
They released Calhoun and his $14 million to make room for Adell. They are not going to assume Fowler’s bad contract.
A better fit would be for the Cardinals to eat $12 million of his salary and trade him to Arizona, where he could replace Dyson or Adam Jones.
They would eat most of his contract to make a deal, with the Angels or anybody else.
The Angels are not trading for Fowler. They need to invest their off season budget on starting pitching. Expecting the Angels to take on any part of Fowler’s contract is wishful thinking.
I like Fowler to the Angels I would also try to move Carpenter maybe a bad contract trade like Duffy from KC give a fifth starter option . I would also sign a left handed bat for the outfield and bench I saw were Thames option wasn’t picked up. He could play of and hit 25 HR. I don’t think they will do much but u never know
who cares which way a player bats, just sign a hitter
They have a right handed hitter Jose Martinez but I know no glove
I agree sign a HITTER not a “left handed” bat
I thought the great Kolten Wong was their left handed power bat? At least Kolten Ruth believes that.
And the idiot shows up with his nonsense. MLB Trade Rumors needs a block button. This will help with the many trolls.
When a liberal can’t take the heat, they resort to communist tactics of censorship. You are the reason for the name I use on here.
How about this: Fowler to Angels for Pujoles and divide the money difference. Both have 2 years left on contract, Fowler reunited with Maddon and Albert finishes career as a Cardinal contributing off the bench from the new 26th roster spot in 2020.
There are talks the Royals may move Duffy to the pen to keep him healthy. I like the thinking though. If he could stay healthy that would be a perfect trade.
The Angels released Calhoun ($14 million) to make room for Adell. They are not going to take on Fowler.
They did not release him. Wrong term.
Hmm..I wonder if the Angels like Fowler to the Angels? Hmmmmmmmm…
Fowler is 33 is owed 33 million for 2 years . Batted .238 and no longer can play centerfield. Who in the world would trade for him?
stan lee the manly
If you package him with a young player that another team is targeting, there are definitely options to move him.
The Giants in particular have a glaring need in the outfield and, unless some drastic moves are made this offseason, will be looking at another lost season until their bad contracts are off the books. What’s one more for a player they want? Tyler ONeill and Fowler for some A ball lottery ticket player may do it if they still like ONeill. Would be hard to lose ONeill at this point considering we still don’t know really know if he can tap into all of that potential, but it’s probably worth it for the money and decluttering the roster.
Hard to see Fowler wanting to waive his NTC to go to a team stuck in the middle, a rebuilding team for all intents and purposes. He dictates where he goes so doubts it’s even conceivable as the Cards are in the thick of it & there’s a clear path for playing time.
Fowler will waive his NTC if he’s riding the bench in STL like he should be in 2020.
stan lee the manly
For once I agree with CFAP. I think a signing/trade for an obvious everyday outfielder may be enough to convince him to a go to a big “exciting” market like San Fran as a guaranteed starter, even if it is for a more rebuilding team. Based on reports out of Chicago, he’s the kind of guy that needs to play every day to keep his confidence up and head in the game, so he may really dislike the idea of being a fourth outfielder.
People always say such as though it’s an inevitability or there’s an ability to read someone’s mind. When in fact it never happens that way, as though Fowler doesn’t have the gumption to bet on himself. So he’d wave his NTC to make Cards fans happy only so that he could experience being a part of the mix and match partial rebuild. If he had one year left on his contract sure I could buy that argument, but I don’t buy it in the least at this point. People seem to underestimate the competitiveness of said athletes. It’s clear by comments concerning payroll a big FA is probably not going to happen, and Fowler is going to have every opportunity to play. I give you he’d probably waive it in the right situation, but the right situation probably involves a team in the hunt that likely doesn’t occur at this point and time.
stan lee the manly
I think your own argument works against you too. His competitiveness and the two years left would be the two main driving forces behind him not wanting to be a bench player for two long years and accepting a trade. None of this is about “making Cardinals fans happy” it’s about putting a better team on the field. And if Fowler doesn’t fit into that, he may very well agree to go to a place that he does.
Nobody is saying it is inevitable that he thinks this way or that he will DEFINITELY accept a trade, but they would be very foolish to not pursue this because they think he would immediately be against it as well.
You have to eat a good portion of his salary.
stan lee the manly
I don’t think so. If you target a team like the Giants that already know their money this year is all on wasted contracts anyways and attach a player they like, they may be willing to absorb a lot of the cost. They just won’t send anything worthwhile back.
Batting average? Fowler isn’t worth his contract but it’s not 1975.
The Cardinals will probably re-sign Wainwright, get Corey Dickerson and add a reliever like Tyler Clippard and call it an off-season.
Mo will tell us the market wasn’t there. Well, the market isn’t there for me to buy tickets.
Mo lives in his own fantasy land.
Or Merchandise , or walk into ballpark village.
There were a lot of empty seats for game six of the NLCS. I hope DeWitt noticed….uh, never mind, Mo got an extension.
NLDS? They were swept in the NLCS.
Game 3 of the NLCS
The Cardinals did not play in a game six last year
In their dreams they did, but if Motie says they did enough times, the sheeple would believe it.
Not all, but the sheep would.
I tried to read this article without laughing but couldn’t do it. The front office extensions made me squirt coffee out of my nose.
You both qualify for dumbest commenters of the year. CFAP, you have a whole body of work to support this effort. You may even top Themed. Wow
As much as I dislike Cards, and the sheep like Cards81 and Themed, they did make the NLCS. Cards81 defense of the FO is, gulp, justified. While I agree the Fowler contract was terrible and the farm system has eroded, they still made it. Only a clown spits coffee out his nose at results.
You got my vote.
Clepto, here’s how much I give two s–ts about what you have to say………
Well, obviously, you do. Seeing how there is a retort within 3 mins.
Congrats on your award….I am sure Mommy and Daddy are proud.
Well in CFAP’s defense it was 4 min not 3 before his nothing defense to you nailing him
Dear Ralph Malph, how exactly did Potsie Weber “nail me?” This should be a fun read.
CPAP, you adding more support to your dumbest commenter of the year votes? You already got my vote.
Clepto…did you actually agree with me? I’m so excited that my biggest fan is trying to change our relationship on MLBtraderumors….even though he did throw in a jab calling me a sheep…I’ll still take it
Says the clown who spits coffee out of his nose
Says the clown who doesn’t know what hyperbole is when he sees it.
The Cardinals have already stated they are not increasing payroll, so there will not be any free agent signings without trading away some salaries.. All we have to look forward to is some housecleaning, most likely. If they trade Fowler, I consider the offseason a success..
I don’t see any point in signing somebody like Callhoun or Dickerson….Let the young outfielders play…
With that article as an outline:
OF: Trade Jose, bring up a prospect. Ozuna; (1) if he accepts QO good, bundle prospect for a #2 or #3 SP. If he declines QO use prospects to fill LF and they add another pick.
IF: Carp @ 3rd w/short leash and Tommy off bench. Resign Matt @ C if he would.
SP: Sign or trade for a #2 or #3 go match with Jack, Miles, Hudson. # 5 would be a fight internally to fill.
Until the hot/cold offense is steady the SP must keep them in games. Carp/DeX are not going anywhere due to no trade. They are a good team and had some outside influence to win the division.
Braves should have easily knocked them out of the NLDS….No bitterness here. You’re the bitter one!!!
And while I’m on the subject….what was up with that infield fly call in the 2012 wild card game?!?! Happy Monday fellow Braves fans!!!
Well, that’s the one and only thing I give respect to them for. They have a history of winning with inferior teams. Plus, I don’t think I have to explain our postseason history for you. It was a pretty easy prediction on what would’ve happened.
Appropos of not much, but gee, Sergio Romo shows up in just about all these offseason outlooks. For a guy who seems like he ought to be an AARP member, he’s awfully valuable.
Last line of this article is comical. A fascinating team to watch in the off season?? If watching Girsch drive Motie around town, as Motie reads a thesaurus to update his arrogant vocabulary, then I guess that could be fascinating? If watching Girsch follow Pomp Boy to Frontenac Plaza to pick out new sweaters and ties, that could be fascinating. But what would really be fascinating is watching Girsch have a fender bender in the Starbucks parking lot and seeing The Uppity Man spill his low fat, double espresso drink on his retro skinny jeans.
CPAP, what you have just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having read to it. I award you Stupid Commenter of the Year, and may God have mercy on your soul.
Well Potsie, since you’re an illiterate boob, I don’t expect you understand anything. Let me explain it for you, Mo’s brother. If reading a Thesaurus, shopping for clothes, and spilling coffee is fascinating, then the Cardinals are in for one heck of an off season. Once again, this is why you are boring. You have no creativity or original thoughts. Most sheeple don’t.
CPAP, I am not a Cards fan, so makes it impossible to be a sheep.
Is that clear enough for you?
Do you need it drawn out and taped to the back of the seats on your short bus with crayons drawings and stick figurines? This is basic logic AFTER you master the ABCs. We now known where you are, Einstein.
Hey Rocko, anyone who can’t think for himself is a sheeple. You don’t have to be strictly a Cards fan.
Lol my two favorite people on here…you guys sure know how to make us laugh…you both are so much smarter and better than anyone on here…everyone else is a sheep…can’t think for themselves…sorry don’t let me get in the way of this…continue to show us all how big of fools you are, sorry I mean how we are
Rebuild or give it one more try? Hell of a mess all those bad contracts.
But at least Facebook has a woman screaming and yelling at a wiseass cat,Why don’t all you piss and moaners take it somewhere else.Some of us are here for content
too many cards fans love to bash any guy making money. carp is still a bounce back candidate and worst case scenario is a LH bat off the bench that can backup a RH hitting 1b and 3b. fowler is a solid player. maybe not worth the money but he’s not terrible. the current position players have a lot of reasons to be optimistic. if ozuna resigns then LH, CF, RF, 1B, 2B, 3b, and the bench all have a decent shot at increased production wothout making any moves. the only hole in my opinion is a top 2 starter. same as last year, tons of depth, but all question marks after flaherty and mikolas. strasburg, ryu, even bumgarner gives the redbirds a legit #1-3 worthy of contending. waino is awesome, but definitely shouldnt be considered a top 3 starter come playoffs.
I would love to see Carp get traded to maybe the Twins they actually need a first baseman and in the AL central he should be able to tear it up again. Fowler I can see with a team like the Royals or Tampa Bay.
Trade proposal- Cardinals Carlos Martinez, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena, and Delvin Perez (21yr old SS prospect) to Colorado for Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story. Then use Edman like a Zobriest type player. Move Dejong to 3rd.
You could swap Carpenter for Fowler or Tyler O’Neil for Jose Martinez if that works.