ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The Cardinals began the process of consolidating their roster, reportedly committing to Matt Carpenter as their first baseman in the coming season.
According to Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch, general manager John Mozeliak has informed Carpenter of the move in an effort to give the nomadic infielder a chance to prepare for the position ahead of the team’s spring camp.
Given St. Louis’ defensive woes last season and their professed commitment to acquiring a defensive outfielder, it’s unsurprising the team solidified Carpenter at first given the alternatives.
The Cardinals’ best hitter is not particularly strong at third base, which is his natural position. For his career, his defensive runs saved per year is -2 at the hot corner. At second, a position at which he was an All Star in 2013, his rating is -7. Given that Kolten Wong is under contract for the foreseeable future and Jedd Gyorko’s offense necessitates regular use, Carpenter’s best fit in the infield is at first base.
The move also sets two other dominoes in motion for the St. Louis roster. With Carpenter out of the running at third, it would appear the Cardinals are committed to retaining Jhonny Peralta. The 34-year-old is on the final year of his contract, and costs a team-friendly $10 million. The low price tag and name equity made Peralta a logical trade chip, especially for an AL team looking for a DH with added value.
Instead, the Cardinals seem to be comfortable rolling with Peralta (.260/.307/.408 in 2016) as their third baseman and occasional fill-in shortstop when Aledmys Diaz needs time off. Gyorko would presumably split relief time between second and third.
The move also means Matt Adams is likely not long for St. Louis. The big lefty started just 69 games last season and appeared in the field in 88. Despite seemingly being the first baseman of the future in 2014, he has never regained control of the position after he missed most of 2015 with a quadriceps tear, this despite his evolution as a hitter over the last three seasons. Early on, there were concerns he would be unable to overcome the heavy shift employed against him as a dead pull hitter. He responded by hitting .288 in his first full season. His power suffered, as he hit just 15 homers that year, but he proved adaptable as a batsman to a degree many didn’t expect. His next hurdle was proving he could be effective against lefties. Though he didn’t get many chances this year (just 50 plate appearances against lefthanders), he capitalized on what opportunities he got, hitting .283 against southpaws.
He never got much of a consistent run as a starter, but delivered off the bench for three homers and a .703 slugging percentage in 38 pinch hit opportunities.
This simply means there’s too much trade potential with Adams’ cost control and age for him to languish on the bench. His greatest value proposition to the Cardinals is almost certainly as a trade piece.
This latest move is part of a larger effort by the Cardinals to thin the herd, eliminating some of the roster overlap that made for inconsistent playing time and lineup juggling. The team simply didn’t have enough at bats for Adams, Brandon Moss, Carpenter, Gyorko, Wong and Peralta. For one season, using someone like Adams as a bench asset was a product of necessity. Continuing to do so may be squandering a resource. With Carpenter cemented at first, there doesn’t seem to be enough real estate at Busch for Big City to thrive.