The outfield shuffle: How the Cards will evolve if Beltran stays -

The outfield shuffle: How the Cards will evolve if Beltran stays

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By Scott Bierman By Scott Bierman

(Baseball StL) -- None of this will matter if Carlos Beltran isn’t resigned after the 2013 season but, if he does, Mike Matheny is going to have one heck of a problem - a good problem, mind you - to work through in 2014. 

You see, Allen Craig has earned the right (through production and contract extension) to play everyday no matter where it is.  Matt Holliday’s contract (and name) dictates he play a ton as well.  Carlos Beltran just might be the Cardinals best hitter right now so, in effect, he’d have to get a few hundred at-bats if retained.  Matt Adams is, well, Matt Adams.  Then there’s top prospect Oscar Taveras.


That’s a lot of people, eh?

Right now it’s easy to work around because Taveras is hurt in the minor leagues and Adams can justifiably get used to the big leagues through irregular work as a bench player.

But next year?  Adams is no bench player.  Not when you’re hitting .316 with a .917 OPS in just 133 at-bats.  Keeping that pace, the 24-year old would hit 29 home runs over a full season’s worth of ABs (approximately 550). 

Next year?  Taveras won’t be in the minors.  And, no, he won’t be rotting on the bench either in St. Louis.

So how on earth can Mike Matheny find room for all of those players?  Well, it’s possible.  But it’ll take some creativity.  It’ll also take some very hard decisions.

First and foremost, Oscar Taveras has to be able to handle center field every single day.  If he can’t, this all changes.  Craig can only play the corner outfield and first base.  Adams can only play first.  Beltran can only play the corners as well. 

If Taveras can’t play center - thus pushing him to a corner along with the others - there’s just too much.  As in, there may not be room for Carlos Beltran.  Think about it.  Holliday, Beltran, Taveras AND Craig manning two spots?  Remember, Craig will play the outfield a lot more next year with Adams getting the at-bats he deserves. 

So assuming the young 20-year old phenom can indeed play center field it makes things possible to fit everyone.  Everyone, likely, but Jon Jay.  It’s hard to envision there being enough at-bats to go around.  Someone’s going to get squeezed out. Unfortunately, since Jay’s hitting just .250 with a .331 on-base percentage it just might be him. 

Jay will cost too much money next year as an arbitration eligible player to take the role currently held by Shane Robinson.  First, Robinson’s right-handed and is a nice compliment to a left-handed starter.  Second, he hardly plays.  And if Jay makes a couple million dollars in salary that could be difficult to justify.

So, assuming Taveras is playing every day in center, that leaves Holliday, Craig, Beltran and Adams for three spots (left field, right field, first base).  That’s more than doable.  It’s a long season of 162 games.  You can easily take four guys and divvy up enough at-bats over three everyday spots.

That could be a hard thing for Holliday to swallow, but something he may not have a choice in.  Craig, Beltran and Adams are just too good to sit simply because Holliday makes $17 million a year...especially when his OBP has dipped from .388 to .379 to .351 in the last few seasons.

Holliday’s still an elite player.  But it’s not a stretch to say he’s not what he once was. 

Moving to a four man rotation wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him.  He could get the rest he needs to be fresh for later in the year.  It would allow at-bats for Beltran, Craig and Adams.  It would be perfect all around.

It’s a nice scenario should the Cardinals be able to retain Carlos Beltran.  But that’s not a given. 

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