Posted on December 9, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The St. Louis Cardinals took a deep plunge into the free agent pool when they signed center fielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year deal worth $82.5 million, and the Red Birds may not be done shopping for high-priced players this winter. Reports out of St. Louis indicate that the team could pursue some of the top free agents left on the open market, most notably Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo.
It would be rather uncharacteristic of the Cardinals to go after players like Encarnacion and Trumbo in free agency, especially after inking Fowler to a long-term deal. However, between Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss leaving in free agency and the Cardinals trading Jaime Garcia to the Braves, the Cardinals freed up over $35 million in payroll. Even after signing Fowler and reliever Brett Cecil, the Cardinals still have some money left over. St. Louis also has money from a TV rights deal coming in, and so investing money in free agents appears to be a more realistic scenario for the Cardinals than in the past.
It should be noted that both Encarnacion and Trumbo make more sense for American League teams, as both are better off being a DH a majority of the time. However, the Cardinals do have a need when it comes to power, as Holliday and Moss combined for 48 home runs in 2016. That need for power is enough to put Encarnacion and Trumbo on their radar.
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At the moment, the Cardinals have not had a lot of contact with Encarnacion, but that can change quickly with the Fowler deal in the books. Meanwhile, Encarnacion is heading towards a point of desperation, as many of his possible suitors have already signed a player who profiles as a DH or first baseman.
A reunion with the Blue Jays looks increasingly unlikely after Toronto signed Steve Pearce. The Yankees, Astros, and Red Sox have also filled their needs with a big bat, while the Rangers insist they are not looking to sign a high-priced player. Thus, the only American League teams in the running for Encarnacion are those who may not be willing to spend the money necessary to sign him, including the Cleveland Indians, who have expressed interest. This opens the door by a National League club like the Cardinals to swoop in late and grab Encarnacion.
While not an ideal fit defensively, Encarnacion would provide a big power lift for the Cardinals. Encarnacion could theoretically hold his own defensively with Matt Adams serving as a viable backup. St. Louis could then move Matt Carpenter to third base, with Jhonny Peralta moving to left field or being used as a trade chip, a scenario that’s just realistic enough to make Encarnacion an option for the Cardinals.
As for Trumbo, he appears to have suitors in the Orioles, Mariners, Indians, and Rockies, but talks haven’t progressed too far with any of those teams. Again, this leaves the door open for a team like the Cardinals to come in late. Like Encarnacion, Trumbo is not a strong defensive player, but he would provide St. Louis with a power threat offensively. Trumbo also has experience at both first base and in the outfield, adding to the options the Cardinals would have if they were to sign him.
On the surface, the Cardinals going after, let alone signing, Encarnacion or Trumbo would seem unlikely. However, St. Louis appears to have both a need for those players and the resources to sign them, even after adding Fowler. Both players are also receiving far less interest on the free agent market than anticipated, making it possible for a team to come out of nowhere and grab them unsuspectingly. The Cardinals could end up being that team for either player.