- The Cards will be looking for a middle-of-the-lineup slugger this winter to boost the lineup. “For us, we have a talented team, but when you look at our club, no one stood out as an All-Star, that threat,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said. Seven Cards regulars were above-average run-creators in 2017 as per the wRC+ metric, though injuries and a lack of regular playing time impacted that group. Josh Donaldson has been rumored to be one of the Cardinals’ offseason targets, and would certainly fit the bill as a big lineup upgrade if St. Louis is able to pry him away from the Blue Jays.
- With Trevor Rosenthal sidelined by Tommy John surgery, the Cards will look into adding ninth-inning help, even if they’re wary of shopping at the high end of the free agent closer market. “Ideally, you don’t pay retail for closers if you can avoid it, and we’ve been lucky for the last long period of not having to dip into that end of the market. But we don’t have an heir apparent at the moment, so we will have to evaluate what our options are,” GM Michael Girsch said.
- Flexibility seems to be the key word for this Cardinals’ offseason, as with so many multi-positional players on the roster, the club has several options in deciding who could potentially stay or go. (And who could be added, in regards to acquiring that big bat.) Mozeliak said that catcher Yadier Molina is the only position player who has his spot on the field firmly established for 2018. This means that Dexter Fowler could potentially move out of center field, which Mozeliak said will likely be discussed in the coming weeks. 2016 was the only season of Fowler’s career that saw him post positive numbers in the Defensive Runs Saved and UZR/150 categories, as he struggled to minus-18 DRS and -9.9 UZR/150 last year over 933 1/3 IP in center field.
- The Cardinals have yet to decide whether or not to issue a qualifying offer to free agent starter Lance Lynn. If Lynn rejected the QO, the Cards would be in line for compensation (an extra draft pick just prior to the third round) if he signed elsewhere. If he accepted, then he’d return to St. Louis on a one-year deal worth in the neighborhood of $18.1MM. After missing all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Lynn returned to post very solid numbers this season and pitched 186 1/3 innings, which could quiet concerns about his post-surgery durability. Even with such a major recent injury on his record, Lynn is likely to find a good multi-year deal on the open market, so one would think he’d reject a QO.
The reigning World Series champion Cubs stumbled through the early months of the season, which led president Theo Epstein to inform teams in early July that he’d consider selling impending free agents such as Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, Patrick Mooney of NBC Sports Chicago reports. The Cubs were at their lowest point of the season on July 9, when they dropped to 43-45 with a 14-3 loss to the Pirates in the last game before the All-Star break. Regarding his thought process at the time, Epstein told Mooney: “Not blowing it up. But when you’re five-and-a-half out, if you have a bad road trip and a bad homestand and then you’re 10-and-a-half out, absolutely, we would have sold.” Instead, Epstein swung a blockbuster trade with the White Sox for left-hander Jose Quintana on July 13, the final day of the break. The Cubs proceeded to go 49-25 in the second half of the season to finish 92-70 and run away with the National League Central.
More from the NL:
- The Cardinals may deal from their surplus of outfielders this offseason, but the highest-paid member of the bunch, Dexter Fowler, seems unlikely to go anywhere. When the Cardinals signed Fowler to a five-year, $82.5MM contract last winter, they included a no-trade clause in the deal. Now, Fowler tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he and his family love their new city. He also enjoys being part of the Cardinals organization. “I see myself being here for a long time. It’s what I signed up for,” the center fielder said. “That’s what my contract says. I’m looking to build a legacy with my teammates.” Fowler had a terrific offensive season to kick off his Redbirds tenure, hitting .264/.363/.488 with 18 home runs in 491 plate appearances, but injuries limited him to 118 games and advanced metrics indicate he had a rough time in the field (minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-5.9 Ultimate Zone Rating).
- The hammer dropped Monday on Braves general manager John Coppolella and special assistant Gordon Blakely, both of whom resigned over alleged rule violations. Their departures might not be the end, either, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more members of the Braves’ scouting department forced to resign.
- Given that he’s close with Gary Denbo, Blakeley would have been a possibility to join the Marlins’ front office, but that’s now in question after Monday’s events, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Denbo is currently with the Yankees, but the expectation is that he’ll join friend and new owner Derek Jeter in the Marlins’ decision-making hierarchy, Jackson notes. Meanwhile, there’s a sense that the Marlins will retain manager Don Mattingly and president of baseball operations Michael Hill, per Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Hill isn’t a lock to remain in the same role, suggests Frisaro, who adds that third base coach Fredi Gonzalez could depart. The Tigers have asked to speak with Gonzalez about becoming their next manager, according to Frisaro.
Here’s the latest on some injury situations around baseball…
- The Cubs announced that catcher Willson Contreras has been activated from the 10-day disabled list. Manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat (Twitter links) and other reporters that Contreras is available to play, though the team will only gradually work him back into the lineup, such as not using Contreras for a full game. Contreras has been sidelined for the last month due to a hamstring strain, which interrupted a very strong season for the 25-year-old. Prior to the injury, Contreras had posted a .274/.342/.519 slash line and 21 homers over 378 plate appearances, spending the bulk of his time at catcher but also playing a few games in both corner outfield and infield spots.
- Dexter Fowler will be out of action “for at least a few days” due to a left knee contusion, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports (Twitter link). Fowler suffered the injury crashing into the outfield wall in pursuit of an Adam Frazier fly ball last night, and Fowler was forced to leave the game. The good news is that an MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage to Fowler’s knee. Fowler as been productive (.255/.356/.470, 15 homers) when he’s been able to play this season, though a variety of injuries has limited the Cardinals outfielder to 436 PA and 106 games.
- Due to what the team described as “general soreness,” Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard won’t throw any simulated innings today, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. Syndergaard threw three innings in a minor league rehab start on Thursday and was supposed to toss some simulated frames today in the latest step of his recovery process. Syndergaard has missed much of the season due to a partially torn lat muscle, and with the Mets out of contention and few games left on the schedule, any sort of notable setback could end Syndergaard’s chances of returning to the mound in 2017.
- Andrew Heaney left his start last night during the third inning due to shoulder tightness, though the Angels right-hander tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and other reporters that he’s “not very concerned” about the injury. Heaney only just returned from Tommy John rehab in August and has made five starts (to a 7.06 ERA in 21 2/3 IP) for the Halos. A shoulder issue is less of a red flag than an elbow or forearm problem given Heaney’s history, and he said he hopes to soon resume throwing.
The Cardinals have announced that center fielder Dexter Fowler will go on the 10-day DL with a wrist strain. His spot on the active roster will be taken by outfield prospect Harrison Bader, who earns his first MLB promotion, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested was in the works.
It’s not known at present how serious an injury it is for Fowler, who as Goold notes has dealt with a few maladies of late. The veteran is obviously a key cog for St. Louis; his loss comes as the club weighs its trade deadline options with a four-game deficit in the NL Central.
Prior indications were that Bader would only be recalled if he would be presented with a relatively extended opportunity for playing time. Just how long of a run he’ll receive will surely depend upon Fowler’s progress and Bader’s play. The new addition could conceivably claim playing time even once Fowler returns, though the Cards will surely continue to allow Tommy Pham to receive regular time and also have other options including Randal Grichuk, Jose Martinez, and Stephen Piscotty (who’s working back from the DL at present).
Entering the year, Bader was seen as a consensus top-ten organizational prospect. He stands at sixth among Cards’ youngsters in MLB.com’s most recent ranking. A former third-round draft pick, Bader has turned in a quality effort at Triple-A thus far, slashing.297/.354/.517 with 19 home runs.
To open a 40-man spot, the Cards have released outfielder Chad Huffman. The 32-year-old had received a brief MLB call-up earlier this year but spent most of the season at Triple-A, where he posted a .247/.386/.437 batting line in 215 trips to the plate.
The Cardinals have placed center fielder Dexter Fowler and reliever Kevin Siegrist on the disabled list, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com (on Twitter). In other moves, the team has optioned outfielder Chad Huffman to Triple-A, recalled outfielder Randal Grichuk and right-hander Mike Mayers, and selected the contract of outfielder Luke Voit, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was among those to report (Twitter link).
Fowler, who hasn’t played since Wednesday, is dealing with a right heel spur, per Langosch. The big-money offseason signing has pulled his weight offensively for a club that has struggled to a 33-40 start, making his loss another blow to its slim playoff chances. Fowler has slashed .245/.336/.481 with 13 long balls, matching his home run total from last year in nearly 300 fewer plate appearances (277 to 551), and a career-best .237 ISO. The 31-year-old has seemingly taken steps backward in the field, though, after he made progress in the grass with the Cubs in 2016. All told, Fowler has accounted for minus-8 defensive runs saved and a minus-8.3 UZR/150 in 60 games.
At times a dominant member of St. Louis’ bullpen since debuting in 2013, the 27-year-old Siegrist is in the midst of one of his worst seasons and is now battling a cervical spine strain. The left-hander has managed a disappointing 4.28 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. Along the way, Siegrist has posted his lowest strikeout rate per nine (8.23), had issues with control (4.94 BB/9) and experienced a notable velocity drop. Siegrist has also had trouble versus left-handed hitters, who have batted .268/.375/.463 off him this year.
Voit, a 22nd-round pick in 2013, will fill the last spot on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster. The 26-year-old toyed with Triple-A pitchers prior to his promotion, slashing .322/.406/.561 with 12 homers in 293 PAs.
The Cardinals had a fair amount of concern over center fielder Dexter Fowler’s right shoulder strain on Friday, but it seems he dodged a significant injury. Fowler missed his second straight game Saturday, though he told reporters – including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – that he only has “general soreness” and is ready to return to the lineup. The Cardinals are understandably taking a cautious approach with their big-money offseason signing, however. Meanwhile, another of their outfielders, Jose Martinez, suffered a groin injury Saturday and will probably head to the disabled list. If so, he’d join right fielder Stephen Piscotty on the DL, leaving the Redbirds with a banged-up Fowler, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham as their top outfielders. The likelihood is that the Cardinals will promote High-A outfielder Magneuris Sierra to provide another option, tweets Goold. Sierra, who’s already on St. Louis’ 40-man roster, is known for his defense, as Goold wrote in December for Baseball America when he ranked the 21-year-old as the Cardinals’ fifth-best prospect (subscription required/recommended).
- Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Saturday that he expects left-hander Brett Anderson to land on the DL, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com. Maddon added that either Mike Montgomery or Eddie Butler would replace Anderson in the Cubs’ rotation, according to Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Anderson started the Cubs’ 11-6 loss to the Yankees, recording just one out and allowing five runs on six hits, before departing with lower back tightness. Injuries are nothing new for Anderson, who missed most of last season after undergoing back surgery as a member of the Dodgers in March 2016. While Anderson has generally been effective during the healthy points of his career, he hasn’t pitched well in his first year with the Cubs. The free agent pickup has registered an 8.18 ERA, 6.55 K/9 and a 4.91 BB/9 in six starts (22 innings).
- The Mets are sending left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to New York on Monday to take a “fuller look” at why he has had recurring injuries, general manager Sandy Alderson stated Saturday (via MetsBlog). “We told ourselves it wouldn’t happen again,” Alderson said in regards to Cespedes’ strained left hamstring, which is similar to the strained quad he suffered last year. Cespedes has been on the DL since April 28, meaning he’s eligible to return Monday, but that obviously won’t happen.
- Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson has been on the DL since April 14 with a calf injury, and it seems he’ll remain on the shelf past the originally reported four-week window. Donaldson is making progress in his recovery, though he revealed Saturday that it’s coming along “slowly” (via Jeff Odom of MLB.com). The 2015 AL MVP is currently using an anti-gravity treadmill at 60 percent body weight, writes Odom, and won’t resume running the bases until he’s at 100 percent.
The Cardinals announced today that right fielder Stephen Piscotty has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a hamstring strain that he suffered in last night’s game. Meanwhile, Fowler underwent an MRI last night following a shoulder strain that was suffered upon diving for a ball in center field (as manager Mike Matheny said after the game, via Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).
In obvious need of outfield help, the Cards recalled Tommy Pham from Triple-A Memphis, and he’ll be with the team for tonight’s game. If Fowler, too, requires some time away from the club, other outfield options in Triple-A include veteran Todd Cunningham and well-regarded prospect Harrison Bader.
Piscotty, 26, got off to a slow start this season but has come around of late and was hitting .241/.378/.380 through his first 98 plate appearances on the young season. The former first-round pick solidified himself as the Cardinals’ everyday right fielder with strong play between the 2015-16 campaigns — so much so that St. Louis inked him to a six-year, $33.5MM extension just one month ago. To this point, there’s no indication of how long Piscotty will be expected to miss, although last night the outfielder described his injury as “mild” in nature (via Lyons).
There’s perhaps some greater concern surrounding Fowler, however. Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports that the team felt last night that Fowler’s injury could be the more serious of the two. The team has yet to make an announcement on Fowler’s status. Fortunately for the Redbirds, both Pham and starting left fielder Randal Grichuk are capable of playing center field, so the team still has multiple options in center field should Fowler require an absence of some degree.
The loss of two starting outfielders in a single game is a nightmare situation for any team, but the injuries are particularly troubling for a Cardinals club that ranks just 24th in the Majors with 110 runs scored. As a team, St. Louis has batted .254/.329/.411 (translating to a 96 wRC+ that is tied for 16th in baseball).
Both Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler left tonight’s Cardinals game with injuries, the team announced. Piscotty suffered a strained right hamstring while running out a grounder and came up lame after crossing the bag. Fowler, meanwhile, suffered his injury while diving for a ball in center field. The Cards have yet to make any announcements beyond the basic details, but Nate Latsch of MLB.com and AP Sports tweets that Tommy Pham was just pulled from the game with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate, suggesting that he could be on his way to the Majors due to a DL stint for either Piscotty or Fowler.
Some more notable injury scenarios from around the game…
- MassLive.com’s Jen McCaffery writes that David Price threw 50 pitches in his second simulated game on Thursday. She adds that Red Sox president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski said Price was working at 93 to 95 mph with his fastball, and he also utilized each of his other offerings during the workout. The lefty is set to throw another simulated game next Tuesday, after which Boston decision-makers will determine whether he requires one final sim game under club supervision or if he’s ready to embark on a minor league rehab assignment. Per McCaffery, Price could be ready to return to the Sox’ rotation in roughly a month’s time.
- Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy suffered a Grade 1 right medial hamstring strain in tonight’s game, per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Kennedy could miss at least one start, and he’ll be reevaluated tomorrow in order to determine if a trip to the disabled list is needed. Manager Ned Yost declined to speculate on the possible outcomes, and Kennedy merely told reporters that the decision is up to Yost, the training staff and the front office. “And when it comes down to it tomorrow, I’ll tell them how I feel,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t feel bad now. But we’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
- Sean Manaea was scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Thursday but was instead limited to long toss due to some soreness in his ailing left shoulder, writes MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Manaea, who exited his most recent start after experiencing shoulder weakness and a sharp drop in velocity, won’t be activated from the DL when he’s first eligible, Lee notes. She also adds that when asked if Manaea was facing an extended absence, Athletics skipper Bob Melvin simply replied, “Could be.”
- Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times provides a pair of updates on some injured Dodgers (Twitter links). Second baseman Logan Forsythe was lifted from the most recent game on his rehab stint due to tightness in his hamstring and won’t be reinstated from the disabled list tomorrow, manager Dave Roberts told reporters. That could mean continued playing time at second base for the struggling Chase Utley, who is hitting just .104/.204/.125 through his first 54 plate appearances. Meanwhile, left-hander Scott Kazmir still needs at least another two weeks in extended Spring Training to build up his arm strength. That should push his timeline back at least into the month of June, even in a best-case scenario, as Kazmir would need further work on a minor league rehab assignment.
As the best player in baseball, and as a 25-year-old who’s signed through 2020 at a more-than-fair price, Angels center fielder Mike Trout is untradeable, opines Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Unsurprisingly, Halos general manager Billy Eppler won’t even entertain dealing the two-time American League MVP, according to multiple GMs who spoke with Feinsand. “There’s no point to bringing up Trout, because it’s going nowhere,” one GM observed. “Teams will surely try, but it’s like running into a brick wall.” Another GM informed Feinsand that Trout is basically untouchable, but he did touch on what it might take for Eppler to consider an offer. “For a team to inspire Billy Eppler to even return the call, it would have to come to the table stocked with one of the best farm systems and young, upside Major Leaguers and be willing to not put any of those players off limits, because it will take a healthy blend from those two groups,” he said.
More from the AL:
- The Blue Jays offered center fielder Dexter Fowler a four-year, $64MM contract in free agency, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. That proposal fell well short of the five-year, $82.5MM pact Fowler ended up signing with the Cardinals in December. By joining St. Louis, Fowler ensured he’d remain in center. The ex-Cub presumably would have had to play a corner with the Blue Jays, who have an elite defensive center fielder in Kevin Pillar, and it’s unclear whether they would have re-signed right fielder Jose Bautista for an $18.5MM guarantee in January had they committed significant money to Fowler.
- Red Sox southpaw David Price faced hitters Saturday for the first time since suffering an elbow injury in early March, writes Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald. Price tossed 30 pitches over two simulated innings, which represented “a quality workday for him,” said manager John Farrell. The plan is for the 31-year-old to throw a light bullpen session Monday and another sim game Thursday.
- Multiple pieces of good news for the Athletics’ rotation, courtesy of John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group: Right-hander Sonny Gray, who has missed the first few weeks of the 2017 campaign with a lat strain, will make his season debut Tuesday against the Twins. And one of Gray’s fellow A’s starters, left-hander Sean Manaea, likely won’t require a stint on the disabled list. Manaea left his start after two innings Wednesday on account of shoulder stiffness, but he’s “feeling great right now.” Barring a setback, Manaea’s next turn will probably come Saturday versus the Tigers, per Hickey.
The Cardinals have filled their oft-discussed need in center field, officially announcing a deal with free-agent Dexter Fowler. Fowler, a client of Excel Sports Management, will earn a reported five-year, $82.5MM in the deal, which comes with a $10MM signing bonus distributed over the contract and successive, $14.5MM annual salaries. The deal includes full no-trade protection.
[Related: Updated St. Louis Cardinals Depth Chart]
Fowler, 30, will fill the open spot in the Cardinals’ outfield. The club has been seeking a player who can take over up the middle, bumping Randal Grichuk to a corner role. Though some questions remain as to just how strong a glove he brings to the center field job, Fowler certainly has plenty of experience. And the overall defensive alignment promises to be a vast improvement over the team’s 2016 unit.
While positional flexibility is a major element of Fowler’s appeal, the strongest elements of his game are on the offensive side of the spectrum. The switch-hitter typically performs better on the short side of the platoon but is an everyday option who looks good at the top of the lineup.
A remarkably consistent hitter, Fowler has rarely strayed from the .271/.371/.428 slash line that he carries since the start of the 2011 season. He was even better last year, hitting .276/.393/.447 for the division-rival Cubs. He’s a reasonable bet for a dozen or more home runs per year, but is at most an average source of power. The real value comes in his ability to reach base, and what happens when he does. Fowler did reject a one-year, qualifying offer from the Cubs following the season, meaning the Cardinals will forfeit the No. 19 pick in the 2017 draft. The Cubs, in return, will receive a compensatory pick following the first round.
Fowler’s excellent on-base numbers are supported by a strong walk rate (14.3% last year) and palatable strikeout numbers (22.2% career, which is right at league average). While he has benefited from elevated BABIP numbers, that appears more a reflection of skill than luck. When he gets aboard, Fowler continues to add value with his legs. He’ll typically swipe between 12 and 20 bags a year, but more importantly draws very strong overall baserunning reviews (eighth in BsR last year).
The biggest area of uncertainty is in the field. Both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating have panned his glove over the years, with ratings typically ranging from slightly below average to rather abysmal. But last year was his best in the eyes of those metrics, which regarded him as a just-above-average fielder in center (where he has played almost exclusively as a major leaguer). Fowler credited alterations to his positioning in center field — specifically, playing deeper than in previous years — for the improvements.
All told, Fowler clearly featured as one of the stronger all-around players available on this year’s free-agent market. He’s arguably a superior player to Ian Desmond, who just landed a five-year, $70MM deal with the Rockies, depending upon whether one prefers Fowler’s steady hitting or Desmond’s defensive flexibility and raw tools.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports (via Twitter) and Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter) first reported that a deal was close. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reported that an agreement was in place. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported the terms (Twitter link), with ESPN’s Mark Saxon (in a tweet) and Heyman (also via Twitter) also providing details.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.