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Honoring Our Veterans Today ~ Cardinals, Dexter Fowler or "Cargo" In Centerfield?

First and foremost this Friday morning, I am honoring all our veterans who have served for our country. Thank you to all for your commitments, dedications and giving of the ultimate in many cases - your life, for us. God Bless all of you with a great deal of gratitude. 

May you all take a moment ~ a moment of silence for all who have served and give thanks.

God Bless those of the past and those still serving our country. 

NOW ~ "PLAY BALL" IN THE OFF-SEASON ~ TRADE OR FREE AGENCY

As St. Louis Cardinals fans have read, announcement by GM John Mozeliak, CF Randal Grichuk is being moved to left field to take over for the exiting LF Matt Holliday. Now, the search is on to replace Grichuk in centerfield. With a less than satisfying end to the Cardinals 2016 season, they are preparing not repeat such an ending. And, one area they want to improve upon is the outfield. And as we all know, the free agency pool this off-season is not as abundant with talent as we saw last year. However, there are a couple that have been brought to the forefront of possibles for the Cardinals in centerfield. 

I have read of two possibles, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gomez. One comes with a first round draft pick that would be lost. The other does not. 

FOWLER THE BEST FIT? 

Fowler was mentioned in an article by Jenifer Langosch, MLB.com. After Mozeliak's statement: "There's a version of this where if you put [Randal] Grichuk in left, you become a much better outfield," Mozeliak said. "So we'll certainly explore the center field market. But if that doesn't work out, keep Grichuk [in center] and look for a left fielder."  She writes in her November 9, article ~ "One of the reasons the Cardinals need a Plan B is because there is a dearth of center field options available on the free-agent market. The only one that would fit the Cardinals' need is Dexter Fowler, and he's expected to command widespread interest. Signing him would also cost the organization a Draft pick. The availability and cost of center fielders on the trade market remains nebulous at this point." 

Dexter Fowler, centerfielder, declines QO and a possible consideration by the St. Louis Cardinals off the Free Agent list. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)

Fowler, who was offered a qualifying offer (1 Yr/$17.6 MM) by the Cubs organization, declined to accept taking his chances in the Free Agent market. Of course, we all remember his lead-off home run in Game 7 of the World Series. Impressive, yes it sure was as the Cubs went on to take the title. He's only 30 years old, but a seasoned veteran of the game in his nine years in the majors. This past season, he closed with a .276 BA/.393 OBP/.447 SLG/.840 OPS. He knocked out 13 HR/48 RBI/25-2B/7-3B on 126 hits with 551 plate appearances in his 125 games played. He was sixth in the league in 2016 with his OBP. He played 1027.1 innings in centerfield, with 117 game starts and 107 complete games, adding 219 put-outs, only four errors for a .983 Fldg%. He closed 2016 with a WAR of 4.2. He shared time in the outfield with Cubs rookie, Albert Almora, Jr. So, now, Fowler is on the market and, strangely enough, reportedly would be interested in playing for the Cardinals. He began his career with the Colorado Rockies (6 years);and, one season with the Houston Astros before his last two seasons with the northenders of Chicago. Of course, should he sign with the Cardinals, St. Louis loses the first round draft pick associated with a QO. 

Fowler was Cubs lead-off hitter. With the Cardinals, he would be placed behind lead-off Matt Carpenter. 

CENTERFIELD OPTION NUMBER TWO ~ "CARGO"? 

Carlos "Cargo" Gomez, seems to be back in the discussion about "who" would make a good fit for the Cardinals, per Brendan Dlubala, RedbirdsRant.com

Carlos Gomez, centerfielder, 2016 split season with the Houston Astros - Texas Rangers, is a Free Agent in 2017. (Photo: AP)

"Cargo" had his second consecutive split season. 2015 Milwaukee Brewers to the Houston Astros. 2016, from the Astros to the Texas Rangers. Therefore, he is not eligible for a qualifying offer by the Rangers, onto Free Agency in 2017. Therefore, no draft pick loss should the Cardinals sign the 30 year old, ten year veteran of the majors. 

Age is with acceptability, experience is a plus in Gomez's case. With the Astros, Gomez's performance was not what many had seen from him seeing a decided drop from his .267 BA while with Milwaukee. He held a slash line of .221/.277/.342/.619 with a WAR of -0.8 in his two seasons with Houston. However, defensively, he held a .997 Fldg% with only two errors in his 1014 innings played in centerfield. In August 2016, the Astros released him to free agency. The Rangers signed him to a minor league contract with Astros' being responsible for a majority of the remaining $9 million owed to Gomez in 2016. The Rangers got the deal of the season only having to spend $125,000 (the pro-rated league minimum) for Gomez. He worked out in the minors, and made his debut with the Rangers, August 25. But, before Cardinals fans get all excited about "Cargo",  "Texas holds a $5 million option for the 2017 season that they will most certainly exercise." (per Simon Ogus, Forbes.com)

With the Rangers for a bit over two months of play in the regular season, "Cargo" rebounded from his slump with the Astros. He closed with a .276/.393/.447/.840 slash line with 8 HR/24 RBI/6-2B with 33 hits in his 116 at-bats. He played in 33 games. He is able to cover all three outfield positions. For the Rangers, he was penciled into the left field, 24 game starts/17 complete games/213 innings played. In centerfield, 7 game starts/3 complete games/28 innings and both positions finished with a 1.000 Fldg%. He was used in right field for 34 innings; but, saw a .875 Fldg%. His WAR increased to a 0.9 in his limited innings during the latter portion of the season with the Rangers. This past postseason, facing the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS, his average pummeled with 2-13 AB/1 RBI for a .154 BA. 

Defensively, Gomez would be an asset for the Cardinals. Offensively, if he could guarantee his .276 BA, or better, I believe he would be a good fit for the Cardinals. Plus, he and Grichuk could be used in both left and center, if necessary. 

MONEY AND LENGTH OF CONTRACT

Gomez has made just shy of $34 MM in his ten seasons. Of which, he earned $28.3 MM in the past four (2013-2016) seasons. Would a 5 Yr/$75 MM be a lucrative enough for Gomez to sign with the Cardinals?  Dexter Fowler was signed for one year in 2016, $13 MM with the Cubs. In his nine major league seasons, he has earned $32,681 MM. Will Fowler be seeking more at the table? Probably, being a part of the 2016 World Series Champion team - but, how much more? Fowler is not a Golden Glove player, and only made one All Star appearance - 2016 - on the coattails of the Cubs line-up for the National League. But, repeating myself, he did have the lead-off homer in Game 7 of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians "Ace" Corey Kluber. That should account for something, right? 

As continued meetings will go in this off-season with GM's, managers, and scouts, I believe summations will become hard offer news in coming days. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt, GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny are well aware of the business in front of them; and, the necessity to have key players in place for a much more competitive 2017. More importantly, the seasons yet to come after this coming season. Trade or free agency, they know the days of band-aide/piece milling a team together are gone. 

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