To say that the Cardinal offense has been stagnant of late would be about as gross of an understatement as possible. Until yesterday’s seven run outburst, the team had not scored more than four runs in a single game since April 17th. In the midst of this dry spell, they leaned as much on pitching as possible, but as is the case when a team is that lopsided, it played close to the middle, managing only a 4-6 record over the run. This skid finds the team only two games above .500 and five games back of the Milwaukee Brewers as they come to town to start the week.
All things considered, it is a team in need of an injection of life from somewhere and it decided that the best way to create was to shake up the roster was to reach within its plethora of rapidly peaking minor league talent. On Sunday night by bringing up outfielder Randal Grichuk and shortstop Greg Garcia from Memphis, the Cardinals proved they will not be hesitant in using their full cupboard of options at a moments notice to serve the big league club. And it is a move which come at the expense of two increasingly less utilized properties in Kolten Wong and Shane Robinson, proving that calculation of moves can go out the window in the name of maximizing impact from every slot available on the club.
It is the type of move that can inspire a variety of responses. On one hand, it could be seen as a rush to judgment in the case of Wong being optioned down before even a month has passed in the season. Another camp can say that the addition of another outfielder further complicates an already deep time share, and could cost valuable at-bats for Jon Jay/Peter Bourjos/Grichuk center field scene.
But what cannot be debated is that something had to give, and Grichuk is the perfect blend of fit and potential boost for the club. The one clear position with an opening for an addition is center field. Bourjos has not produced at the plate enough to warrant an everyday opportunity thus far and while Jay has stepped in admirably into the position he held for the past two years, there was a reason why the team went out to look for an upgrade this winter.
Grichuk, however, has played the on-demand role of a plug and play option in the outfield as well as could be expected. On the heels of a spring where he was promising at the plate, showcasing the type of power that made him the part of the Bourjos/David Freese deal that really put it over the top in the club’s eyes, he also took to the task of fitting in center field remarkably well. So it is no surprise that after 20 games of hitting .313 and running up 12 extra base hits and driving in 17 runs that he was first chosen to insert a new offensive option in the only everyday position with an easy to insert option.
In the same vein, the addition of the multi-talented Garcia is both necessary addition due to the demotion of Wong, and another shortstop option that can fit in while Jhonny Peralta finds some more regularity as well.
It is the first time to the Majors for both, and stands to show what could be a regular trend for the team this year. Much like last season, when both injuries and early season ineffectiveness ushered many of the team’s top pitching prospects to the club ahead of what was predicted for them, there is a limited window for everyday contributors to show they are ready to produce for this current incarnation of the team. With a fully stocked, mostly healthy and high-promise group of positional options proving their worth, the emphasis of making the most of your playing time while with the big league club is higher than ever.
Nothing is too permanent with this club. The truth of the matter is that unlike previous years, there will be more looks given by this season’s Cardinals than any other year in recent history. Just like the time, situation and position was tailor-made for Grichuk and Garcia to be moved up now, there will be times that fit Wong returning or Stephen Piscotty, Oscar Taveras and any other number of the rapidly emerging prospects to make their debut as well. However what is certain is that if reinforcements are needed, they can be called upon, so making a regular and worthwhile contribution to the team within one’s designed role is as essential as it has ever been for survival on the 25-man roster.