Column: With Fowler signed, what’s next?

This morning the St. Louis Cardinals introduced Dexter Fowler as the newest member of the team as he has signed a 5 year, $82.5 million deal. It was an aggressive move by the team to make sure that they acquired the best option on the market before another team did. He will wear the #25 for the Cardinals.

With the acquisition of Fowler, the Cardinals get better. Fowler was worth 4.1 WAR for the Cubs last year while Aledmys Diaz led the Cardinals with a 3.5 WAR.

Even if Fowler takes a step back, he’s been a consistent 2.5 WAR player over the past few seasons, which is still an improvement on what the Cardinals had in left field last year where Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss combined for a 1.1 WAR. The impact by metrics is 1–3 wins. All for less than we would have paid Holliday to stick around for another year.

With their top priority now completed, the question is what the Cardinals do next. At today’s press conference, John Mozeliak was asked about that. He kept expectations low that they were only looking to add complimentary pieces at this point. Though he did say Wednesday night that they might not do anything before the holidays and two days later, here we are.

It’s been said that, with Fowler signed, the team may pivot their plan to add another hitter, perhaps even chasing Mark Trumbo or Edwin Encarnacion. If the Cardinals could find a taker for Jhonny Peralta, I’d totally be onboard with that. Though I still feel like Justin Turner is the best fit for what the Cardinals want to accomplish this winter, even if he lacks the same offensive punch as Trumbo or Encarnacion.

The Cardinals mashed offensively last year, but lacked on the defensive side of the ball.

While Trumbo and Encarnacion are truly designated hitters who can “play” in the field, Turner is an exceptionally capable third baseman. He would likely be the best defensive third baseman the Cardinals have had since Scott Rolen was playing over there. The problem with Turner is that it’s hard to bank on his offensive numbers.

Turner broke out with the Dodgers in 2014 after being claimed off of waivers and hit .340 with 7 home runs in 109 games. In 2015, he hit .294 with 16 home runs in 126 games. Last season he hit .275/.339/.493 with 27 home runs in 151 games for the Dodgers. Will he duplicate those numbers? Can he duplicate those numbers? That’s really the question.

But the answer I keep coming back to is that even if Turner can’t replicate that offensive performance, he is still a plus defender. He can contribute to the team even without his bat.

It’s not like Trumbo and Encarnacion are easily projectable players either. Both are coming off great seasons in hitter friendly ballparks.

Trumbo played half of his games in Camden Yards and hit .256/.316/.534 with a league leading 47 home runs. But outside of Camden, he has not nearly been as standout. He hit just 22 home runs in 2015 between Arizona and Seattle, though he hit 22 home runs on the road last year but with a .258/.299/.518 line.

Encarnacion, no relation to Juan who played for the Cardinals in 2006 and 2007, has played his entire career in hitters ballparks. Either the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati or the Rogers Centre in Toronto. He hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs last year. While just more than half of his home runs actually came on the road, he hit just .242/.343/.492.

The problem with Trumbo and Encarnacion is they do not have a fielding position. Sure, Trumbo can play right field and first base and Encarnacion has played both third and first bases in their careers, but they don’t improve the Cardinals’ defense, which was a stated goal for the organization this winter.

I see the Cardinals as about a 92 win team right now. Still likely a few games behind the Cubs, but signing a guy like Turner would draw that gap ever closer.