Without Craig, like it or not, Cards outfield plan is crystal clear

Without Craig, like it or not, Cards outfield plan is crystal clear

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 2: Oscar Taveras #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-RBI double in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 2, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 9-7. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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by Brian Feldman, BaseballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on August 3, 2014 at 8:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 5 at 4:56 PM

(BaseballStL) -- We all knew something was going to happen at some point.  Which makes the fact we’re all surprised to see it happen rather comical.  But the day Oscar Taveras introduced himself to the Cardinals organization he had a spot waiting for him in St. Louis someday. 

It was just a matter of who he pushed out. 

We all know by now that Allen Craig is that man.  Many thought it would eventually be Matt Adams, even perhaps Matt Holliday by asking him to waive his no-trade clause.  But Craig is the guy GM John Mozeliak shipped off to Boston to partly make room for Taveras full-time.

Like it or not, this solves a huge problem going forward.

With Craig out of the picture – along with James Ramsey – the Cardinals now have the proper amount of depth among outfielders in their system.  Before they had a surplus.  Now it’s just depth.  Stephen Piscotty remains.  As does Randal Grichuk.  Charlie Tilson is working his way up the system as well.

Next year the Cardinals can start to slowly integrate both Grichuk and Piscotty onto the Major League roster without having to worry about creating space with established veterans.  Grichuk can share playing time – if Mike Matheny elects to do so – in center field with Jon Jay. 

Piscotty can serve his apprenticeship (Adams and Carpenter style) by coming off the bench for a year.  Come off the bench for a few days, start in right field while Taveras gets a day off, come off the bench for a few days, start in left field while Holliday gets a day off, repeat. 

It’s a good plan.

Then in 2016 – the final year of Matt Holliday’s contract that’s guaranteed – Piscotty can slowly start to get a little more playing time to prepare for the inevitability of him taking over in right with Taveras shifting to left in 2017.

No one will get in Mozeliak’s way of seeing that come to fruition.  There isn’t another top flight hitter on the roster to do such a thing.  Craig complicated matters in that regard.  So did Ramsey.  Now it’s just Shane Robinson and Peter Bourjos, two guys who are rather easily expendable.

It will be a while before we find out if Mozeliak did the right thing in this blockbuster with Boston.  How does Craig hold up over the next three years?  Does he find his hitting stroke?  What kind of a pitcher does Joe Kelly turn out to be?

And what do the Cards get out of John Lackey?  Does he keep his word and pitch at a $500,000 salary in 2015? 

We won’t have the answers to those for at least a couple years.  But at least we know now the long term vision in the outfield is much easier to project.

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