For a sport that takes place in very hot weather, baseball can be a brutally cold business at times. Sometimes though, every now and then, a trade takes place where both parties find fresh air.
Dexter Fowler’s chances of resurrecting his career in year five with St. Louis were more imaginary than realistic. By trading him (along with paying a portion of his salary) to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later (not Pujols), the St. Louis Cardinals cleared a jam in the outfield. Well played, John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch.
While many point to departed Cardinal Marcell Ozuna as the overall disappointment, the real lack of excitement and production came from Fowler’s end. In his four years of service, according to Fangraphs, he has generated a WAR of 3.0. That’s it. Compared to a salary that breached the $16 million annual mark, the output wasn’t sufficient.
No one would label this trade a heist for either side. Joe Maddon and Los Angeles get one more aging veteran to toss on the lineup stock pile. The California sun will be good for Fowler’s legs, but it will put some renewed juice in St. Louis outfield possibilities.
They aren’t intricate as one would think. You can lean on Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Justin “I’m still here” Williams for answers about their ability to produce. Mozeliak could bring back Ozuna on a contract that points its beak towards the 2022 season, when the designated hitter is roaming around the National League. That is if there actually will be any games next year. I don’t see the appeal in Andrew Benintendi. Sorry.
Or the Cardinals could use the leftover cash from Fowler’s departure, and plug it into the rotation. Local kid Jake Odorizzi is a free agent and offers a durable arm for a rotation carrying more questions than answers. Odorizzi turns 31 in March, but dazzled for Minnesota in 2019.
The power play would be adding Ozuna and Odorizzi, but I wouldn’t place too many chips on that bet. The Cardinals are slowly integrating their young players into bigger roles. If Yadier Molina decided to run away from the altar at the last minute, I firmly believe the Cards are ready to give Andrew Knizner (my fellow Feb. 3 birthday pal) a leading role. Tommy Edman is set to take over second base from the new Brewer, Kolten Wong. O’Neill won a Gold Glove and has the power threat, and you bet the Cardinals could spin that into a good spring narrative.
I firmly believe O’Neill can outproduce Fowler for $15 million less.
But internal options aside, know this. The Cardinals were in on Joc Pederson until the Chicago Cubs swung away with a better offer. They are in on Odorizzi discussions, as well as a few other players most likely. At this point, Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt Jr. are trying to pull an offseason heist that rivals Danny Ocean and his crew’s takedown of Terry Benedict. I mean, Mo did walk away with Colorado’s money in a way. You can’t doubt them one bit at this moment.
Fowler needed a new start. If he finds his OBP fusion out west, good for him and his beautiful family. Nothing but love for a Major League player who dared to tell the world he was vulnerable. Fowler discussing his battle with depression humbled the mystique that usually clouds a player from fans at times. But the former Cardinal let just about everyone in. While I won’t miss his inability to be that guy the team signed years ago, I will miss his smile and charitable efforts in the St. Louis area.
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