ST. LOUIS -- Everywhere you look, people (fans and media alike) are playing what Mike Matheny called “Junior GM” by trying to figure out how this organization is going to fit all these prospects into the current club.
It’s true, seeing how David Freese is the starter at third base and Matt Carpenter has become more than adept at second makes Kolten Wong a tricky fit.
It’s true, with Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Jon Jay and Matt Adams already here and the fact Carlos Beltran is playing so well you’d have to think the team is interested in resigning him, Oscar Taveras could have to bump someone to the side to get his at-bats.
But just because there are more players than positions available does not mean GM John Mozeliak has to go out trading these guys to make things all nice and pretty on the roster. There’s this word in sports that means more to front office executives than it does to fans.
When you have depth, you’re protected. When you don’t, you leave yourself open to a multitude of problems. Depth protects you from injury. Depth strengthens your bench. Depth helps provide adequate rest for players that otherwise might have to get overused. Depth is a great thing. Don’t just throw that away because it doesn’t create the prettiest picture in your mind.
You can find a way to take all of these guys that are considered everyday players and still get them everyday at-bats, even if they have to share their position with someone else.
Let’s take the Freese-Carpenter-Wong dynamic at second and third for instance.
Matt Carpenter just might be making the All Star team this year and has proven himself as a legitimate lead off guy for the Cardinals. He deserves (read: needs) to play every single day because of what he gives the offense at the top of the lineup.
So give him 150 starts a season between the two positions (no one plays all 162 anymore). That leaves 174 starts (162 plus the 12 Carpenter rests) between Freese and Wong. If you split those in half, that’s 87 starts each. If you multiply that by four (the approximate number of at-bats a player receives in a game) you get 348 ABs. Add in another 80 for at-bats off the bench they’d receive in games they don’t start and all of a sudden you’re up to 428.
We just found a way to give 600 at-bats to Matt Carpenter as your lead off hitter (splitting time between second and third base) while also giving David Freese and Kolten Wong more than 400 at-bats apiece over the course of the season.
And there’s not enough room for someone? Really?
The exact same formula can be applied to the outfield/first base with Oscar Taveras, Allen Craig, Matt Adams, Matt Holliday and - if he returns - Carlos Beltran.
By having so many quality guys on the roster you A) strengthen the bench because someone who should start wouldn’t start, B) are able to provide more than adequate rest so no one gets overexposed and C) are well protected in case someone gets hurt.
Mozeliak certainly has the ammunition to package some of these prospects together to make an impact trade if he chooses to do so. And he might. But he certainly should not feel compelled to force the issue just because there’s a logjam of talent.
There’s plenty of at-bats to go around.