ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- When the Cardinals traded Allen Craig to Boston it was clear their intent was to play Oscar Taveras on an everyday basis in right field. They’ve done that, but with dreadful results.
It’s reasonable to expect Taveras, 22, to need time to adjust to major league pitching, but how much time is enough time in the middle of a pennant race? Taveras has been the starting right fielder for the past 13 games. He’s 9 for 45 in that time for an average right on the Mendoza line, .200. He hasn’t had an extra base hit since August 2. He has no multi-hit games since taking over the job on a full-time basis. Statistically, he ranks among the worst hitting right fielders in baseball.
How long should the Cards stick with Taveras? Share your thoughts.
The Cardinals have a very difficult decision regarding what to do about Taveras and the right field situation. With the team desperate for victories, trailing the first place Brewers by three games and struggling mightily to produce offense, can they continue to afford to be patient with their rookie? It’s a tough call for Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak. After seeing Taveras tear up minor league pitching the Cardinals brain trust seems convinced that he’ll be an impact hitter at the big league level as well. What message would they be sending to the team and its fan base if they bench Taveras less than a month after trading Craig to the Red Sox? But, what message are they sending if they continue to play Taveras on an everyday basis and he never snaps out of his slump?
If the Cardinals were hopelessly out of the race (Cubs), or if they were getting plenty of offense from the rest of the line-up (Brewers), it would make sense to continue to be play Taveras on a daily basis and let him find his stroke.
"Of course, the more at-bats I have, the better I get," Taveras said. "I'm proud to be in the lineup every night and know that I can help the team. I just do what I can to be consistent at the plate. I feel more confident with the team and that's a nice feeling to have."
As long as they’re in the race, and it seems likely they will be for the remainder of the season, the Cardinals need to make the necessary adjustments to the roster and the line-up to give them the best chance to win every night. Right now Oscar Taveras, with his .215 average and limited power, isn’t a very attractive hitter for a corner outfielder.
Taveras is not the first highly touted prospect to struggle early in his career. Mike Trout hit just .163 with one homerun in his first 12 starts with the Angels and was sent back to Double-A. Willie Mays had only one hit in first 26 major league at bats. Granted, comparing Taveras to Trout and Mays is terribly premature and extreme. The point is that slow starts for young hitters are more the rule than the exception.
There are veteran outfielders available for trade. Among those who have cleared waivers are Marlon Byrd, Alex Rios, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino. Most of those players come with huge contracts that make acquiring them a complicated process. Even if the Cardinals don’t want to trade for an expensive every day outfielder, take on salary and send Taveras to the bench, they’re still desperate for a power hitting pinch hitter. They need to do something soon to help one of the worst performing offenses the Cardinals have put on the field in decades.