On Friday the St. Louis Cardinals announced that they had signed center fielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year deal. The Cardinals signed Fowler for over $80 million but throwing that money at the 31-year-old was necessary as the Redbirds were in desperate need of a player who could spark the offense, as well as someone who could bring much-needed defense to the outfield.
While the Fowler signing is certainly a big move and plugs a gaping hole for the Cardinals, general manager John Mozeliak may not be done just yet. Later Friday afternoon, Derrick Goold reported that the Cardinals could be in pursuit of free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion’s market has reportedly “cratered” and he is now in “wait and see” mode as we head into the meat of the offseason.
The Cardinals were able to sign Fowler by offering more years and much more money than other teams were willing to for him. They could deploy the same tactic again with Encarnacion while his market is low. Reports suggest that other teams are unwilling to even go three years and $60 million on the 33-year-old, so if Mozeliak was to come in with an offer of four years and around $80 million it may entice the slugger as a deal like that could be the best he will see all offseason. Encarnacion turned down a similar deal from the Toronto Blue Jays, but that offer was pulled and is not likely coming back.
Encarnacion’s market will not stay low for long. This is a player who has crushed baseballs for the past five years, averaging almost 39 homers a year, and has been to three All-Star games in that span. Since 2012 Encarnacion’s line of .272/.367/.544 outs him among the top-10 hitters in the game, on par with Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt. Teams will pay for offense, and Encarnacion is clearly one of the top sluggers in the game, a player who could boost a lineup like the Cardinals over the hump and back to contention.
Last year St. Louis was outbid on David Price and then snubbed by Jason Heyward, who chose the now-reigning champion Chicago Cubs. With the Cubs looking like a potential dynasty, the Cardinals made the move of stealing their center fielder, and could close that gap even further by bringing in Encarnacion, a player who has topped 95 RBIs each of the past five years. With high average/OBP guys like Fowler, Matt Carpenter, and Stephen Piscotty in front of him, Encarnacion could thrive in St. Louis, and they could even make the Cubs sweat a little bit.