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2015 Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up Progressive Blog – Day 2

Day 2 of the Cardinals Care Winter Warm Up, the unofficial kick-off event to Cardinal baseball season, will get underway shortly at the Hyatt Regency in downtown St. Louis. The fan fest is the largest fundraiser of the year for the team’s community outreach program, which has contributed $11 million in grants to over 800 non-profit youth organizations in the area.

Bitter cold weather and snow hit St. Louis area

On the baseball side, it is also the return of the players and team personnel to their baseball battlegrounds as well, and throughout the day they stop in the media area to discuss their off seasons, goals for the year and other various items as well.

Once again, we will be reporting those sessions as they happen, with the second day of the Winter Warm-Up Progressive Blog. During Saturday’s first entry in this year’s PB, Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos, Stephen Piscotty, Mark Reynolds, Randal Grichuk and more spoke, and today will feature even more of the team as they make their through the WWU.

So follow here for up to the moment information and both @i70baseball and @CheapSeatFan on Twitter for photos, comments and more.

 

Adam Wainwright made his way to the podium first today, to talk over a plethora of issues about the end of his 2014 and the surgery that followed this winter….

After having forearm surgery in October, Wainwright stated he began playing catch at the same point that he did last year despite his surgery and that there have been no alterations to his off-season preparation.

The injury that eventually necessitated the surgery rooted from when he hyper-extended his knee in a game against the Mets. Then he altered his approach some which resulted in a muscle injury in his forearm.

Wainwright explained the onset of the injury  also stated that it tremendously his ability to grip a baseball during the late portion of the year. In addition to that restriction, his ability to extend his arm was effected as well. “Extension was the problem. You saw me throwing a lot of cutters and curveballs because I could get my to a certain point fine, but not to pronate all the way through.”

Expanded from there, he talked about the impact of that lack of extension on his ability to use his complete arsenal of pitches. “This was okay because I’m not really a power pitcher, so I was okay to get through with that for the time being. But you saw the difference in the first part of the year when I was a complete pitcher and I was able to do all of the things I wanted to do, and then in the second half when I couldn’t.”

“The thing I do really well is be able to pitch inside to righties and lefties. I can sink the ball inside, which opens up the outside corner. I totally lost the ability to do that.”

“So when I hit Yasiel Puig in the playoffs, I knew it was the right pitch but I just couldn’t execute it. So Adrian Gonzalez was right when he said I don’t normally hit people like that, but I’m not normally hurt either.”

Outside of the baseball related ramifications, he expressed experiencing everyday difficulties due to the injury and rehab even to levels that affected simply household tasks. He said that he could not twist the lids off of jars due to the injury and the surgery afterwards. “My masculinity took a hit at the end of last year,” he joked regarding the need for the simple assistance from his wife.

Going forward, Wainwright does not anticipate any change in how he either prepares for the season or how he is used. “I have four more years (on his contract), and this team doesn’t need me at half speed. There are guys better than me if I’m half speed, but if I am going full out I don’t think there are many better. So I’m going all out until they tell me to stop.”

On a decreased amount of starts throughout the year in order to stay fresh for the postseason, he was enthusiastic in refusal about the concept:

“I don’t think my October track record speaks to me getting real tired. I was injured last year, but in 2013 I pitched great in October. I had one bad start in game one of the World Series, but other than that I have pitched against some really good pitchers that don’t give up many runs.”

 

Matt Holliday followed Wainwright in….

On Jason Heyward’s Addition

Regarding the addition of Jason Heyward, Holliday sees a number of ways that he can help the team. “He will add a lot offensively and defensively, as well as on the bases. It depends on where Mike (Matheny) hits him to get the best out of out of him,” he said.

However he does see a clear way that Heyward can amplify the lineup in an area it struggled in a year ago. “He is a potential 25 home run guy and I think that is more of what we need than someone batting leadoff and trying to get on base.”

On the subject of the offensive power outage that plagued the team for the duration of last year, Holliday was as miffed as anybody else on pinpointing the reasoning. “There has to be some kind of reason, but maybe it was just one of those years. But nobody was really able to consistently get the home run swing going and the more you try to hit them, the less it seems to happen. So hopefully we come in with a good approach and home runs really happen by getting those good swings.”

Looking ahead, he sees it as more of an exception than a new rule that will continue into this season. “I think our lineup will score a lot more runs this year. It would be crazy not to think that most of our guys will not be back closer to what they average in their career.”

On the subject of nagging injuries as he gets older, he played down the impact that could have on his production and availability. “I feel really healthy. I played 150 plus games a year ago, so I feel like I have done a great job of working that out and making sure it doesn’t flare up.”

He also expressed feeling a returned excitement on the Winter Warm-Up experience along with the fanbase. “This is something we look forward to. We as players enjoy this because we get to see teammates we haven’t seen in a while and get to interact with the fans for a good cause.”


2013 organization Minor League Pitcher of the Year Tim Cooney steps in next…

Regarding the experience and learning curve of a full year at the Triple A level, Cooney said “I think I learned a lot about what kind of pitcher I am, especially the importance of command when facing more experienced hitters. Hopefully I come into the spring even better than I did last year.”

The benefits of starting the year competing at the Major League spring training level was something he was enthusiastic about as well. “It was a good experience facing some experienced hitters, and mentally that helps when facing minor leaguers because you think ‘Okay, I can get the big league guys out too’, so it definitely helped.”

Headed into the year, his focus is on refining his touch, but also expanding his offering as well. “I want to throw harder, but not at the expense of my control. A big focus is my change-up. Most dominant lefties have a good change up because they are facing so many right-handed hitters. It is coming along pretty good too.”

Lefty Sam Freeman followed Cooney up….

In regards to looking back at his 2014, Freeman was honest in his assessment: “The year went pretty well. There were parts of the season where the consistency was not the same, but other than that it was pretty okay. There were parts of the season where my command was where I wanted it to be and parts where it vanished a little bit. But I am more aware of what I need to do to keep it consistent.”

On facing repeated left-handed hitters, he does not see a pronounced difference in facing them. “Lefties have done better off of me, so I wouldn’t say I have a better rapport against them. Last year I gave up more extra base hits against lefties than right-handed hitters. I don’t think that they are crushing me, but I am not doing a good enough job of eliminating them when I have the opportunity. I need to do a better job of finishing them off.”

Southpaw Sunday continued with Tyler Lyons

Regarding in what capacity he could see action in, Lyons was open for all business: “For me it is about getting ready for the season, whatever role that may be. I don’t have much say or control over that, so I’ll just be ready to go.”

“Over the past couple of years I have had a little bit of experience out of the bullpen, but it is not anything really different for me. Mentally once you get out there to pitch its all the same, but it’s kind of about how you prepare day in and out.”

The biggest differences in the role in his opinion come from a preparation standpoint, but it is not something that he sees as being a difficult transition for him: “I’ve never had a problem getting ready quickly. Even as a starter I feel like I get ready too quickly and have slow myself down, so I have never had a problem getting ready quickly.”

“The biggest difference is as a starter you pitch on a particular day and then have a certain amount of days in-between. As a reliever you have to find a way to get ready every night, and then you may pitch or may not pitch. So you just have to figure out how to be ready every day.”

When asked about if he feels he is overlooked in regards to placement among the pitching staff, he is quick to diffuse the scenario: “I’ve had opportunities, so I try not to concern myself with that too much. You’re kind of in a weird situation here because you have so many guys and there are a lot of young guys and a lot of competition.”

Wacha

Michael Wacha stepped in next to discuss the end of the National League Championship Series, his return from injury and optimism on the year:

Looking back at the infamous relief appearance in Game 5 of the NLCS in San Francisco, Wacha said he said he felt fine physically despite the layoff from actual game action at the time and had been working in the bullpen, despite having not had in-game action in some time.

“I wanted to be out there in that situation. As a competitor, that’s where you want to be and Mike put me out there because he trusted me. And I told I appreciated it and wanted to be out there in that situation, and it just didn’t work out like we wanted to in the end. I just made a bad pitch.”

Regarding moving on past the series-ending home run: “It took a little while, but baseball is a game where you have to be able to forget. Usually you have a game the next day to move on to, but it just gives you a little bit more motivation in the offseason.”

On the health of his shoulder, Wacha said he does not anticipate having to adjust his mechanics at all due to avoiding a repeat of the injury and that all scans of the shoulder and muscle group are showing good returns. “With my workouts and weight training, everything has been feeling good. It’s an exciting time and I’m feeling good and strong.”

He has not thrown off of a mound yet. His throwing program started later due to the season itself beginning later, but nothing drastic due to the injury. He anticipates starting to throw off a mound in the upcoming weeks. States that staying on top of his conditioning is the top priority and that he does not anticipate any further MRI’s going ahead. He joked that he thinks he will “start glowing” if he goes through many more scans.

Wacha stated he does not have an innings goal for the season, nor is he aware of any potential limits the organization may put on him. The expectation personally is to make every start currently. “I don’t want to be that guy that has to get shutdown at a certain point,” he stated. “I want to be the guy that they lean on every fifth day for a win.”

Reflecting back on the trade of friend (and neighbor) Shelby Miller, Wacha said the entire scenario set upon him rather quickly. He stated he was with Shelby working out near their homes in Houston (they live about a half block apart from each other) when the news broke that he was traded.

“It is definitely pretty different. He is a good friend of mine and we work out together and we hang out together quite a bit, it will be different not having him around. I think he is excited about a new start, but we are just as excited about having Heyward and Walden with us as well.”

He is enthusiastic about the chance of matching up against Miller at some point down the road as well.

“Yeah, that’d be fun. I always give him some crap about being ready for some chin music if he gets up there and digging in on me. But it would be pretty fun to get to face him.”

Lefty Marco Gonzales was next up….

Reflecting on his 2014, he said he could imagine a better outcome: “I look back at all the experiences and there’s nothing like being thrown in the fire. I couldn’t have had better people to learn from as well, so it was a good time.”

Looking at what at the ways that he could make an impact in St. Louis this season, he is open for any and all business:

 

Marco Gonzales

Reflecting on his 2014, he said he could imagine a better outcome: “I look back at all the experiences and there’s nothing like being thrown in the fire. I couldn’t have had better people to learn from as well, so it was a good time. “I’m optimistic about an opportunity. Frankly, opportunity I get I will excited for it, whether it’s in the Major League rotation, in Memphis or in the bullpen, I’m okay with any of those options,” he said. Jokingly, he continued “Even if it’s at shortstop, I don’t care. Being able to play baseball every day is a blast and I’m blessed to do it.”

Regarding the possibility of filling all of those roles, he reiterates that he fine with any capacity: “That just comes with the preparation of being ready for everything. Just keeping the mentality of fine tuning my pitches, working on my command, strengthening my body and doing what I can to be ready for anything.”

About whether he will be more prepared for the possibility of pitching out of the bullpen, due to spending some time there last year, he gives credit to the end of 2014: “Nothing prepares you better than doing it, especially pitching in the postseason. The big stage and bright lights, I took so much away from it and it will help me down the road for sure.”

He said he was at full strength in the postseason due to the adrenaline of the situation, and he didn’t feel fatigue from the repeated work.

Up next: reliever Seth Maness

On his early season struggles, he still cannot pinpoint the exact reason why he got off to such a rocky start a year ago: “I don’t think I have really put my finger on it. Mentally preparing and not getting down on yourself is important. That’s the biggest thing, not getting down on yourself, fighting yourself and hurting your performance.”

“Last year was the most adversity that I have experienced in the game. It was a true challenge. I believe the more you starting thinking about it and listening to other people, it turns into a whirlwind.”

While acknowledging the shift of the bullpen personality dynamics with Jason Motte and Pat Neshek both departing, Maness gives credit to Randy Choate for being the veteran that many younger components of the bullpen go to for guidance.

“I’m still learning as a reliever. That’s why it’s important that I can go to Choate and ask him. Relieving every day you have to be ready in regards to keeping your arm in shape and being ready to go every day. It is a big adjustment, going out having a rough outing and having a few in a row, so I am still learning.”

He states that he would be open to looking to return to the starting rotation one day if needed, but it is not on his radar right now.

 

Rehabbing lefty Kevin Siegrist….

Regarding his health and rehab progress from the forearm muscle strains that curbed his season, he was on a regime of rest being the most important element. He explained he was not sure about the source of the injury and that he was actually relieved when there was an injury diagnosis.

“It was a very frustrating season for sure. I didn’t have the explosion at the end of my pitches. I could just tell I wasn’t throwing the ball the same way.”

When attempting to pinpoint sources for the injury, he returned back to the 2013 World Series. “I think part of it was the World Series before. I had such a short break that I didn’t know how to prepare myself going into the season,” Siegrist explained.

On things he is focused on working on, continuing to develop a secondary pitch is his focus. “Last year before I got hurt, I was really working on my slider and getting its velocity up so it appears like a cutter. I thought I was showing improvement with that, and I definitely have a better feel for it going into this season than last.”

Carpenter

All-Star third baseman Matt Carpenter took to the podium next…

About being entrenched at third base for the year and knowing his role ahead of time, he says it is “a good feeling knowing you have a position,” and he does not anticipate preparing for any other spot. He feels third base is a natural fit for him.

About finding a more consistent groove this season at the plate, Carpenter doesn’t anticipate doing anything any differently in his preparation for the year. Rather it would be some changes in his approach that he would embrace instead by becoming more aggressive at the plate.

“This last year was kind of a grind for me mentally and I never really felt like I got on a real hot streak that I could prolong like the year before. I think last year was a good learning experience overall.”

He continued on that he did find a different zone in the postseason: “I did finally come and it was in the postseason and I will take that ten times out of ten.”

“I took more of an aggressive approach in the postseason. Part of that was from the experience I had gathered from the year before. It sort of opened my eyes that it was something that over the course of a season could have some benefits as well. That was a good learning experience for me.”

Carpenter was enthusiastic about the possibilities that Heyward brings to the Cardinal offensive approach. “I’m excited. Certainly we know what kind of player he is and the ability he has to get on base. I don’t know what our lineup is going to look like or how it is going to unfold, but I sure am excited to know he’ll be in there somewhere.”

About his role in the lineup potentially changing, Carpenter says that while he will hit anywhere in the lineup Matheny places him, however he is open to moving wherever fits best.

When accessing the potential of being paired with Heyward at the top of the lineup, Carpenter sees it as a chance for the team’s offensive approach to get far more diverse. “I think this group can be really dangerous. You would think that between me and Jason, we would be at the top of the lineup. While I don’t want to speak for him, would say that (Heyward) hasn’t really tapped into his potential as a power hitter, and I would like to put myself in that category as well. So you have two guys at the brink of finding out their power threshold and meanwhile doing a really good job of getting on base as well.”

Regarding the increasing competition level in the NL Central, Carpenter sees it as an across the board challenge. “This is going to be as tough of a division as it has been since I have been around, and that’s pretty hard to imagine because this has been a really tough division already,” he evaluated. “With the emergence of the Pirates , how good the Cubs look on paper and the Brewers are always there, its going to be a tough go.”

“But the good news is that they are sitting on the other side thinking the same thing about us, and I feel good about the group we’ve put together.”

And finally, Matt Adams steps in to round out a busy day at the Winter Warm-Up.

About the high spot home runs he had in the postseason against two of the game’s best left-handed pitchers, Adams relays that “It was a huge confidence builder for me, especially doing it against Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner.”

His focus on his swing has been in continuing to work with hitting coaches throughout the offseason and taking swings against sliders in the batting cage. Soon he anticipates introducing curveballs and change-ups as well.

 

 

That’s it for day 2 of I-70’s coverage from the Cardinal Care Winter Warm-Up. Come back tomorrow for final day coverage, as well as some exclusive content from the first two days as well.

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Keeping Perspective With Mark Reynolds Deal

The Cardinals pulled their first fish out of this year’s free agent waters on Thursday, by inking first baseman Mark Reynolds. Reynolds, most recently of the Milwaukee Brewers, was a specific target for the Cardinals this winter and his acquisition came to fruition finally today. He agreed to a one-year deal with financial terms yet to be disclosed.

 Reynolds_BlastAtFenway_BobDeChiara

The club entered the off season with a specific need to get a more varied offering from the first base position, after Matt Adams struggled against left-handed pitching again in 2014. As well, there was a pronounced focus on adding more right-handed power to a bench that struggled to find a consistent source of productive depth over the last few years behind its front eight.

The 31-year-old Reynolds is coming off a year where he hit 22 home runs and drove in 45 runs for Milwaukee, while carrying a .196 average. In his career he is an owner of seven consecutive 20 home run campaigns, highlighted by a 44 homer breakout in 2009. Easily capable of significant outburst of power and run production, Reynolds represents a potential find in both of these areas  for a team that finished towards the bottom of the NL in both areas. However, he also comes with obviously easy points to detract from as well, as his alarmingly low batting average showcases. So why don’t we go head and extol those areas first and get it out of the way, okay?

Mainly, he strikes out, a lot. It is truly done at an epic rate. He strikes out at such a frequent pace that it has become virtually impossible for him to play every day. He has never had a season where he made 500 plate appearances that he did not notch at least 150 strikeouts, highlighted by the four year run where he led his league in k’s, checking in at 204, 223, 211 and 196 from 2008-11. In his 4,380 plate appearances, 1,398 of them have ended with a strikeout, a 31% overall clip.

That is a prodigious number that is undeniably a red flag. And it is also clipped by the fact that he carries a .229 career average and .324 on-base percentage. Now, the OBP is not particularly horrifying, as he is somewhat adept at drawing walks as well. However he will be the classic example of an edge of the seat option; if he makes an impact, it is either all or nothing.

Now the benefits of it all. All in all, he is a minor disciple of the Adam Dunn School of True Outcomes: homer, walk or strikeout. But in regards to the role he will be asked to man in St. Louis, that is okay. Barring substantial injury to Adams, he is not going to be asked to be an everyday presence, and in the event that he was, he could fit comfortably into the bottom half of the lineup with some regularly and not cause a catastrophic change to the team’s potential.

The one trick pony at the plate brings a quietly diverse element to the overall picture when his potential with the glove is brought into consideration too. While Reynolds considered to be an above-average first baseman, he is versatile enough to shift across the diamond as well if needed. With the non-tender of Daniel Descalso earlier this month, there was a void in who could back up Matt Carpenter if needed as well.

The Cardinals are devoid of many free swingers, which also can play into why they are devoid of very many home runs as well. In 2014, the Cardinals finished with both the fewest strikeouts in the NL (1,133), as well as the fewest home runs (105). Additional of Reynolds is sure to create an upswing in both categories, which creates an increase in a need category, as well as an increase in a manageable negative area. It is the definition of giving some to get some.

All in all, the move to grab one of the few clear cut options on the open market that can increase the team’s potential is a solid, if not spectacular one. But the Cardinals are not in need of spectacular moves, they are in need of finding finishing touches. When tasked with rounding out a roster, there are some edges that have to be covered with not the smoothest all-around options. If Reynolds stays par the course of his usual tendencies (whilst keeping the extremes in check), he offers a definitely needed solution in an area that had few answers last summer.

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Cardinals Player-By-Player Grades At The Half

The Cardinals are now well past the technical halfway point of the season, but the ceremonial one that is the All-Star Break is still ahead. With that coming, it is a fair time to assess where the individual parts of the team stand thus far, via the time tested and approved method: the good old grade card.

It has been a frustrating season for lofty expectations, but a deceivingly successful one other ways. The team is far from out of the divisional race and in the heart of the wild card race. It is a team that has not been prone to long runs of success (season high win streak: 5 games), but it does not stay down for long either (a three game losing streak is its worst). The ebb and flow of the year is what has been confusing for fans, team and management alike. Answers are not easy to come by it seems why they have not been better, more often.

 Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

However a look at the lineup explains that in easy detail. Coming out of Monday night’s walk off victory, the team is still a perplexing mix. They have scored the third fewest runs in the NL and have hit the least home runs by a difference of eight. Simply put, it is an offense that simply has not gotten the job done to the level it is capable of. And while the picture is constantly shifting, it is a team that simply has to play better as it is, because it is all in on its reasonably ready assets on the big league roster right now.

There are several crucial players that the club is vested in that simply have to snap out of it for this team, that is still very much in midst of the NL hunt this year, to move to the front of the pack.

Here is how the everyday options are scoring out halfway through. We will take a look at the pitching staff tomorrow.

Grade A: Yadier Molina, Matt Adams

It has not been Molina’s greatest half of his career, but all things considered that is a pretty high standard to meet regardless. Yet he still approaches the All-Star Break within earshot of a .300 average, leads the Majors in caught stealing percentage at 50% of would be base thieves and has once again guided the pitching staff through more than a few valleys this year. In addition to gutting through what seems to be some health issues or perhaps just the side effects of innings beginning to catch up to him, he has maintained an above average presence and has been rewarded with his sixth All-Star nod as a result.

Adams has more than adjusted well to the full-time role at first base. Despite not putting up the raw power only numbers that would have been guessed for him headed into the year, he was become a much more effective all-around hitter than could be expected as well. He is leading all NL first basemen in batting average (.331) and top three in doubles (21) and slugging percentage (.536).

Grade B: Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Jhonny Peralta, Tony Cruz

The perception of it is mostly held back by the simply off the charts season he posted a year ago, but regardless Carpenter is having an impressive campaign. He has been a mainstay at the top of the lineup, posted an impressive .379 on-base percentage across an NL-high 398 plate appearances. He has continued to swing what could be considered a ‘clutch’ bat as well, carrying a .328 average with runners in scoring position. Most importantly, he has provided a major defensive upgrade at third base, which has bettered the team’s complete defensive potential as well. He’s the grit of the club on a daily basis.

Jay has continued to refuse to be written off and has been a much needed steading presence in a centerfield picture that was hazy at best through the first two months of the season. Despite any opinion that looks to take away from his value to the team, it has been his versatility and resilience that has truly helped eliminate what could have been a huge and lingering issue up the middle.

The easy way to score out Peralta is to point out what he has not done well, which would be mainly reach base consistently. However, when taking a step back and remembering what he was brought here to do—namely upgrade the non-existent everyday production from the shortstop spot a year ago and be a solid option towards the bottom half of the order—he has exceeded splendidly. He leads the club in home runs and doubles, and has played better than anticipated in the field as well.

Cruz has the tough job of being the rarely used fill in that has to step in for the club’s most valuable (and regularly active) property. His appearances, as usual, have mostly come after long inactive stints, but he has made the most of those opportunities so far. Cruz has posted a (…..) as a starter. Add in the work he did in steadying out Lance Lynn early in the year and he has been very dependable—when needed.

Grade C: Matt Holliday, Kolten Wong

He is annually a slow starter, but at some point Holliday always has ‘that month’ where he does nothing but tear the cover off of the ball and then settles into his usual level of above average production. He is yet to embark on that run this year, and actually, his average has been in a steep decline all year: .294 in April, .266 in May then a season low .244 in June. Holliday’s greatest asset in his time in St. Louis has been a steadily productive presence to be a catalyst for the rest of the team to build off of. Yet in a lineup in desperate need of that axis, his downswing has been particularly crippling. He is on pace for just nine home runs and 74 RBI coming into Monday night.

Wong’s season has been one that has come in flashes of both brilliance and frustration. There was the slow start that saw him demoted briefly, but then followed by being NL Rookie of the Month in May. Then there was the shoulder injury that cost him half of June after a rapid decline in production has he tried to play through it. However, the talent is clear and he simply having the type of rollercoaster campaign that rookies (albeit a slightly unlucky one) go through.

Grade D: Allen Craig, Mark Ellis

Craig’s season has been one that has been a near complete loss. Gone is full field, line drive power that saw him be the team’s run producing engine a year ago. Replacing it has been a hitter that has struggled with timing and balance at the plate, and has seen his average drop over 60 points. He has not been aided by the bullheaded positioning that has kept him in the midst of a lineup where he would be best placed much lower, for the greater good of himself and the club. There have been runs where he has resembled his former self, but right now, he is quickly becoming the third option in the three way Adams-Tavares-Craig disco for positional playing time.

Ellis has been as solid as advertised on defense, but has not offered anything offensive. And it is not that he was being counted on to do much in that regard as is, but he was expected to at the very least provide an equal alternative to Wong as a starter. It is at the point now where is more of a Kozma-like offensive liability in the lineup and is close to double-switch or forced into action due to injury status now.

Grade F: Shane Robinson, Daniel Descalso, Peter Bourjos

Robinson has developed a reputation has being a serviceable sub, but between trips up and down Highway 55 between St. Louis and Memphis he hasn’t quite delivered on the time he’s kept a default fill-in role on the roster. His average is pushing at .140 and his defense isn’t strong enough to support that.

Speaking of one sided contribution, that is the story of Descalso as well, only to a slightly lesser degree. He does fill a necessary role as backup on the left side of the infield, but fielding a below .200 average and playing a marginal at-best shortstop, he’s not made a tremendous case for himself in a year where he’s gotten plenty of looks.

What Bourjos had to offer offensively was always more about tools than it was about them relaying into production; he has always struggled with that. And while he has added a much needed speed dynamic when he reaches base, he has only achieved that at .276% clip. That is not enough to warrant everyday consideration, thus the early demotion to rotational defensive replacement/twice a week starter already.

Incomplete: Pete Kozma, Greg Garcia, Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk

Kozma and Garcia both made brief appearances with the club, but were not able to crack in front of the Descalso backup preference. It would be good to see Garcia get a more extended look at some point, as he showed some promise in his seven games up, but he will probably need to make a more overwhelming point at Memphis than he currently is (.248/.339/.376) to push the issue.

The second half will tell more of the story for both Taveras and Grichuk. It’s unfair to grade the two rookies yet, just due to the fact they have not had much in the way of extended and consistent time as of yet to showcase what they can do. But second half will certainly provide a suitable proving ground, especially for Oscar. The push to find at-bats for the organization’s prized prospect will take priority, especially if the incumbents continue to stumble through at-bats. However, he will need to eventually turn the at-bats into production to help put the team over, but getting him experience is of the utmost importance.

Grichuk managed only a .136 mark over 46 at-bats, showing that he needed more seasoning on the farm, specifically versus the breaking ball. Staying at Memphis into September is the smartest possible course of action for him right now.

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The Cardinals Will Have a Strong Left Side of the Infield for Years to Come

AledmysDiaz

 

Over the last week, the Cardinals have made two moves that have locked up and solidified the left side of the infield for years to come. It has also, for the first time in years, guaranteed strength at two positions that have not always been the strongest positions on the team.

The Cards have had a sort of rotating door at shortstop for years. For the short period when Rafeal Furcal was healthy, the team was getting production. But when he was hurt, they had to rely on the likes of Ryan Theriot and Pete Kozma. Those experiments did not pan out and SS has remained a weak spot on the lineup.

Somewhat similarly at third base, David Freese has been good when healthy, but Cardinal fans are very privy on his health issues and it became impossible to rely on a full season from Freese, regardless of what kind of production he gave when he was at a hundred percent.

Last week, the Cardinals signed Matt Carpenter to a 6 year, $52 million dollar extension. The contract particulars per year include:

  • 6 years guaranteed
  • $52 million guaranteed (including a $1.5 million signing bonus)
  • 2014:  $1 million
  • 2015:  $3.5 million
  • 2016:  $6.25 million
  • 2017:  $9.75 million
  • 2018:  $13.5 million
  • 2019:  $14.5 million
  • 2020:  Club option for $18.5 million or $2 million buyout

Last year, Carpenter put up MVP numbers. He is 28  years old and his current contract will carry him until he is 34 years old. Those are some prime years the Cards will get from the third baseman, and hopefully some career stats will come with it.

Along with the extension, the Cards signed Cuban free-agent shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a 4 year, $8 million dollar contract. Diaz is a very promising signing, but isn’t quite the guarantee that Carpenter is. There are some major questions surrounding him. Can he stick at SS? Is his bat good enough to transfer to another position? Where does he start next season?

The signing is ultimately a good risk for the Cardinals, and in comparison to other recent Cuban defectors, is a bargain for the team.

Another benefit of the Diaz signing was the prior signing of Jhonny Peralta in the off-season. By signing Peralta to a 4 year, $52 million year contract, they have locked up the position for years to come. And that hasn’t changed at all. It does make the Diaz singing slightly confusing. But it is definitely a good problem for the team to have.

Other safety nets on the left side of the infield

Greg Garcia

The minor leaguer has been in the wings for years, waiting for his chance to come up. Last year with Memphis he hit an impressive .281/.386/.403. The high on base pct and the ability to steal bases positions Garcia to be a solid top-of-the-order player.

Pete Kozma

Most Cardinals’ fans would be happy to never see Kozma be a regular-day starter again. But desperate times may call for desperate measures. And with DL stints inevitable, Kozma could fill in at times. He is also still young, so development and improvement are possible.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado was drafted 57 overall last year by the Cards. The 18 year-old is a slender 6’2, 175 pounds. He is an option later down the road, but has promising upside. A Bleacher Report scouting report ranks him on the 80-point scale at:

Hitting: 35/55

Power: 30/40

Speed: 50/50

Defense: 45/60

Arm: 50/55

So a lot of questions remained unanswered. But they are good questions to have. Along with having two proven All-Stars at third and shortstop next year, the Cardinals also have many more options in the future.

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Cardinals Create Own Misfortune In Game One

In many regards, the Cardinals have been a max effort team throughout their playoff run. From a string of uncanny, timely pitching performances, to just the right hits to get by, they have found a seamless way to survive. However, on Wednesday night in Boston, those seams popped and the Cardinal chances quickly followed suit.

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There is not a postseason series that is devoid of “the moment”. Whether it be a critical defensive play, pitch placement or a hit find the right opening in the field, it is the turn of these plays that more often than not decides the turn of a series. Murphy’s Law was firmly rooted against the Cardinals in each and every one of these instances from onset of the Game One of the World Series, and they paid an instant price. Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester owned the corners in the top of the first inning, while Adam Wainwright uncharacteristically missed them. Boston made the best of the mini-slump from the Cardinal Ace, and the substandard Cardinal defense made sure they stuck.

The most notable play of the night will remain the first of this series of unfortunate events, where shortstop Pete Kozma’s moves without out the ball were executed more flawlessly than his ones with it. On a quick attempt at an inning-salvaging double play was initiated by Matt Carpenter, Kozma uncharacteristically missed the exchange at the base, a play that had its biggest impact to come after its completion. After the play was overturned by a rare umpire tribunal, it was made that even the runner coming into second was safe after Kozma never had control of the ball to record an out.

As such things always seem to unfold; this error was followed immediately by a definitive hit in the game by first baseman Mike Napoli in the next at-bat. He cleared the bases on a hanging Wainwright delivery and cleared the bases, putting the Red Sox ahead permanently.

Yet that moment was far from the only miscue of the day for the sloppy Cardinal defense. An inning that began with a miscue between Wainwright and Yadier Molina on a routine infield pop fly, it was Kozma’s second error in as many innings which blew things open yet again, which led the second time the bases were loaded in the young game. On the following play, Dustin Pedroia chopped a routine ball within range of both Kozma and David Freese at third, yet got past both and drove in the fourth run of the game, as well as kept the base loaded and the game alive.

Yet, it was the next at-bat that was the most ironic of the game, and could have the most resonating impact of the game. David Ortiz came within inches of his second grand slam of the postseason if not for a world-beating grab by Carlos Beltran at the right field fence. But in the course of making the grab, Beltran banged is open rib cage on the outfield wall, an outcome that forced him from the game at the close of the inning. While Beltran’s hospital returns were X-Rays and cat scans which showed no serious reasons for concern, in the same way that they benefitted from the injury to Hanley Ramirez in the NLCS, they could be forced to battle through for themselves now with a sore Beltran.

After this early string of misfortunes, the Cardinal momentum was sufficiently deadened. While they mounted a brief threat in the fifth inning, as well as broke up the team shutout bid in the ninth inning on a long Matt Holliday home run, their fate was long since decided, and largely by their own doing. The 8-1 loss gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the series, an edge that has resulted in a win in the last 24 World Series contest.

The Cardinals have been a team that has played at best when performing in concert, as Game Six of the National League Championship Series displayed. Yesterday’s game was a study in what happens when that same display happens in the contrary. Boston did the three things well that win baseball games on Wednesday: pitched well, played well at home and capitalized on mistakes. For the Cardinals to return to St. Louis tomorrow night with the series under control, they must do their part to assure there are fewer chances for the Sox to make good on the latter scenario.

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What Does The Future Hold – Cardinals Contracts and Scenarios

As the St. Louis Cardinals face the final weekend of the National League Championship Series, and the baseball year as a whole rolls into its final go around shortly, the show still goes on, regardless of outcome. Sooner or later, the tone of the year quickly turns to the personnel part and the future becomes the present. Free agency, retirements, trades and rumors will rule the roost for the next three months, and the Cardinals will be far from on the outside looking in.

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While the team has the rare pleasure of having the vast majority its entire core and active roster under team control for not only 2013, but 2014 as well, the business is safe to continue as is for the near future. But exactly how is the design of the team set up entering the winter? Here is the entire breakdown of the Cardinal roster, including what’s to come, what will cost what and how contract status works into the personnel decisions that could loom.

(Contract figures per Cots Contracts & Baseball Reference)

Guaranteed Contracts—$71.5M guaranteed in 2014

Adam Wainwright (32, $97.5M through 2018)

Matt Holliday (34, $51M through 2017 w/ $17M team option in 2018)

Yadier Molina (31, $44M through 2017, w/ $15M team option in 2018)

Allen Craig (30, $28.5M through 2017, w/ $13M team option in 2018)

Jaime Garcia (27, $17M through 2015, w/ $23.5M total in separate team options in ’16-’17)

Jason Motte (32, $7.5M through 2014)

Randy Choate (38, $6M through 2015)

The vast majority of the Cardinal veteran core is not only signed, but is contracted through the next four seasons at minimum. Wainwright, Holliday and Molina are likely on career carrying deals, while the team locked up young, quickly proven players such as Craig and Garcia early in their careers, and have control through their best years underway. Motte is the lone pending free agent on the 2014 team, and will have a show-and-prove year as he returns to the ninth inning from Tommy John surgery early in the season.

Arbitration Eligibles

John Axford (31, Stage 2, $5M in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

David Freese (31, Stage 2, $3.15M in 2013)

Jon Jay (29, Stage 1, $524,000 in 2013)

Daniel Descalso (26, Stage 1, $511,000 in 2013)

Fernando Salas (29, Stage 1, $512,000 in 2013; Non-Tender Candidate)

While Craig and Motte are locked up, the remainder of the formerly young Cardinal cast is in the midst of their arbitration years. At maximum, Freese, Jay and Descalso are under team control through 2015, but there will be a few tough calls in this tier of the team, and none harder to predict than Freese, who is due for a raise into the $5M range, but had his worst year of his career. Axford’s case will be the most interesting case, as he is a high-ceiling talent, but will carry a difficult price tag for what is likely a seventh inning bridge pitcher to carry.

Pre-Arbitration

Lance Lynn (27, Stage 3)

Matt Carpenter (28, Stage 3; Buy-out Candidate)

Tony Cruz (27, Stage 3)

Shane Robinson (29, Stage 3)

Shelby Miller (23, Stage 2)

Michael Wacha (23, Stage 2)

Carlos Martinez (22, Stage 2)

Pete Kozma (26, Stage 2)

Trevor Rosenthal (24, Stage 2)

Kevin Siegrist (24, Stage 2)

Seth Maness (25, Stage 2)

Matt Adams (25, Stage 2)

Joe Kelly (26, Stage 2)

Keith Butler (25, Stage 2)

Sam Freeman (26, Stage 2)

Tyler Lyons (26, Stage 2)

John Gast (25, Stage 2)

Kolten Wong (22, Stage 2)

Adron Chambers (27, Stage 2)

The core of the Cardinal team is its youth, as the group that was heralded as the top organization in all of baseball before the season has seen many of its jewels hit the big leagues. Of the 19 players in this section, no less than 12 are virtual locks to be on the Opening Day roster, and none will come in at cost of more than $525,000. This is where the cost control of youth, performing youth at that, shows it’s most advantageous asset. And with only Lynn, Carpenter, Cruz and Robinson on pace to reach arbitration status over the next two years, unless the team decides to up the ante on an early long-term deal to buy out any of this group’s arbitration seasons, this will be a strong asset on the side of the team’s purchasing power, if needed.

Free Agents

Carlos Beltran ($13M)

Jake Westbrook ($8.75M, $9.5M team option will be declined)

Chris Carpenter ($10.5M, will likely retire)

Rafael Furcal ($7M)

Edward Mujica ($3.2M)

Rob Johnson ($750,000)

There are a few ifs and a few certainties here. The certainties start with Jake Westbrook, who’s 2014 option is all but certain to be declined. Furcal and Carpenter will not return as well, with retirement on the horizon for Carpenter and Furcal missing all of the season with Tommy John surgery, and the team having moved on from him before spring training commenced. Mujica is due for a raise, despite his late season struggles, and will likely price himself out of returning for the capacity he would be needed in.

 

Post-2014 Free Agent Candidates

Motte, Axford, Freese

Post 2015 Free Agent Candidates

Garcia, Choate

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Déjà vu Threatens Cardinals All Over Again

Down 2-1, and faced with nothing elimination games ahead in their Divisional Series match up with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals find themselves in a familiar place. But not the type of “they’ve been behind before” postseason rhetoric that has been tagged to the club so often recently, rather it directly correlates to the way their season ended last time around. While the pitching alignments get the buzz, it is the lineup that is once again failing the Cardinals.

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It has now been two full games since the Cardinals had a lead at any point versus Pittsburgh. Along the way, the Cardinals have been buried by the same type of timely hitting from the Pirates core that the Cardinal collective has been prided on. Pedro Alvarez, Russell Martin and Marlon Byrd have collaborated to drive in more runs (16) than the Cardinals have combined for as a club (11).

Basically, they are being beat at their own game. After a season where the Cardinals were the second most productive team offense, hitting for a .269 average, they have torpedoed to a .219 average through the first three games of the series. Carlos Beltran’s once again outstanding October effort aside, as well as solid showings from Yadier Molina and Matt Adams, the rest of the lineup has brutally underperformed. Highlighted by a 1 for 11 (.091) spin by Matt Carpenter, a 2 for 12 effort by Matt Holliday (.167) and a pair of 2 for 10 showings from Jon Jay and David Freese, the same type of large scale outage that sunk the team over the last three games of 2012 has made an untimely return.

There is a huge difference in the 2012 postseason Cardinals than any past incarnation however, and it is a simple see: it is not a deep team. Whereas in years past there were Allen Craig, Lance Berkman and Matt Carpenter among others to supply hits off the bench, there is no such presence of that sort this year. Look no further than the final two batters in yesterday’s game, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, who, respectively, hit .217 and .238 on the year. It’s a striking showing that their were no other bats available to take those opportunities, and proves resoundingly the depth the team lost when Craig was lost for what looks to be the season. The bottom line is simply, what starts is what has to produce, and the group failings to do so (a .192 average from the starting lineup over the past 18 innings) is creating a brutal case of déjà vu.

Over the past the last three games of last season’s National League Championship Series, the Cardinals mounted one run across three games, which unfolded in the same home, then road-road sequence. While the team is guaranteed to score more runs than last with yesterday’s output, there is still simply too much pressure put on the pitching staff to win games.

Game four sees a continuation of yesterday, with Michael Wacha going to the mound for his first postseason appearance of his career. While he has been effective against the Pirates, and is the best available option to start this game, even with his best efforts will be for nil if the team continues to leave runners on base

In a most poetic situation in how the year has unfolded, it is the young arms that have been leaned on to pitch in high leverage situations, and while the rookie staff as performed impeccably throughout the year, they still are young. The postseason is made for veterans to deliver, and for all of the strides the team took this season, it finds itself on the verge of ending in not only the same fashion, but at an earlier clip if it cannot work out the order of things by 5:00 this evening.

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Matt Carpenter for MVP: Now it’s Getting Serious

MattCarpenter

Several months I wrote this article arguing that Matt Carpenter could win the MVP. In the article I pointed out how it wasn’t such a wild idea; how he had the numbers for the sabermetrics community along with being a professional workhorse who switched positions for the betterment of the team, which pleases the more traditionalist crowd. I finished the article with:

So all of this hopefully shows Carpenter’s name should be in the hat. With a consistent or even superior second half, he can be the first second baseman to win the MVP since Jeff Kent in 2000. And the first Cardinals second baseman to win it since Frankie Frisch in 1931.

Not bad for someone who was without a position last year.

While Carpenter didn’t necessarily have a “superior” second half, but he did have an equally exceptional second half.

Carpenter’s first half: .321/.394/.497

Carpenter’s second half: .328/.401/.480

Since then, talk has caught on. The Cardinals broadcasters mention almost every night there is an increasing chance he may win. There’s a Facebook group dedicated to him winning (full disclosure: due to my article I was asked to be an admin on the group).

There’s plenty of other articles dedicated to Carpenter winning. It’s been covered further on our site. Bernie Miklasz talked about it here.

The Bleacher Report on his MVP chances

The question of Matt Carpenter as a legitimate NL MVP candidate is not just fluff. This young man is the real deal.

He’s come through for the Cardinals with his bat, his glove and most of all, his grit.

Carpenter is a scrapper. He’s asked to learn second base and comes back as one of the game’s best active second baseman.

Rob Rains claiming he should be in the discussion

Carpenter’s .313 batting average after Sunday’s game ties him for sixth in the NL. He scored his league-leading 97th run on Sunday and his two hits increased his season total to 157, two ahead of Milwaukee’s Jean Segura for the most in the league. He also hit his league-high 43rd double and his total of 58 extra-base hits is tied with Goldschmidt and one behind league-leader Jay Bruce of the Reds.

Even beyond the regular statistics, Carpenter’s value to the Cardinals can be found in the success he has had as the team’s leadoff hitter, where his contribution can be measured in many different ways. The most important one is that when he hits and gets on base, the Cardinals have a much better chance of winning the game.

Rant Sports on the power of his hitting despite having to work over the offseason on switching positions

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Matt Carpenter is quietly putting together an MVP-caliber year. He leads the NL in hits, doubles, and has the highest on-base percentage among lead-off hitters. He has 58 multi-hit games, the highest in baseball. 

Here, ESPN counts down the top 5 probable leaders for the NL MVP. They put Carpenter just outside the top 5, claiming

He’s been a huge unsung hero for the Cardinals, filling dual voids at second base and the leadoff spot. Carpenter is on track to become the first St. Louis hitter with 50 doubles in a season since Albert Pujols in 2004.

I do admit if I was a voter, I would have a hard time voting for him over McCutchen too, but Carpenter definitely has a strong case. Out of the top 5 on ESPN, here is his chance of beating all 5.

Andrew McCutchen – .319/.405/.510

Why Carpenter can beat him – As I said, McCutchen is going to be tough to beat. What may hold him back though is the same thing that may hurt Carpenter: neither excelled greatly at a traditional line. McCutchen only hit 20 homeruns. Didn’t hit the 100 RBI mark. Voters may see that and vote for another player who hit 30 homeruns or 100 RBIs.

Yadier Molina – .314/.355/.471

Why Carpenter can beat him – Along with having 150 more at bats, Carpenter simply had a better year.

Paul Goldschmidt – .304/.405/.556

Why Carpenter can beat him – Goldschmidt’s team won’t make the playoffs. Love or hate that unwritten rule, it’ll still deter some voters.

Freddie Freeman – .314/.392/.500

Why Carpenter can beat him – Freeman, like Carpenter, is a long shot. And when you get to long-shots, voters start to really study the stats more. And Carpenter has better stats.

Clayton Kershaw – 15-9 1.88 ERA

Why Carpenter can beat him – Pitchers can win the MVP, but they need to have exceptional numbers. Kershaw’s numbers are good enough to easily win the Cy Young. But don’t see him winning MVP.

The last second baseman to win the MVP was Dustin Pedroia in 2008. How do the numbers compare between Pedroia that year and Carpenter this year?

Carpenter has a higher batting average, higher on base percentage, higher OPS, more runs created, a higher WAR and will probably end the season with more RBIs while hitting leadoff behind the pitchers spot.

Things are getting serious in Carpenter’s MVP bid. And since the first article, my thought has changed from how Carpenter COULD win the MVP to how Carpenter SHOULD win the MVP.

Follow me on Twitter @pchibbard

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St. Louis Cardinals have MVP candidates, probably not MVP winner

The St. Louis Cardinals have had several players jump toward the front of the National League Most Valuable Player discussion throughout the season, but none of them are likely to win the award once the season is complete.

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Catcher Yadier Molina started the season on an incredible tear. He led the National League in batting average for much of the first half, peaking at .367 on June 18. He also has played his typically fantastic brand of defense and will likely win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.

However, Molina’s right knee started to give him trouble at the end of July while the Cardinals were in the middle of their season-worst seven-game losing streak. Molina sat on the disabled list for the minimum 15 days and has continued to be a very valuable player for the Cardinals, but his batting average is now back down to .316, just one point better than his 2012 batting average when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Because defense is nearly always undervalued in the MVP vote, Molina probably will not win his first MVP award this season.

First baseman Allen Craig has his batting average at .315 and was near the league lead with 97 runs batted in through the beginning of September. He also has a league-leading .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has hit just 13 homeruns and has not played since he hurt his right foot Sept. 4.

No player has hit fewer than 15 homeruns and won the National League MVP award since former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee received the honor in 1985 with just 10 homers.

That precedent could also hurt the Cardinals third MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who has been incredibly consistent throughout the season and has started to draw attention as a possible recipient of postseason awards, but he has just 10 homeruns.

Of course, homeruns are not an important part of Carpenter’s game.

Carpenter leads the National League in runs scored (121), hits (193) and doubles (53). He is also third in the league in extra base hits, third in batting average, tied for fourth in singles and eighth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabremetric that incorporates data to spit out a number that says how many more wins a player adds to his team than an average major leaguer.

Unfortunately for Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals MVP candidates, the man who will most likely win the award is first in WAR and has numbers across the board jus slightly better than the Cardinals players. Plus, he has a potentially wonderful storyline that will almost certainly help his chances.

The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will probably be the National League MVP if the Pirates don’t lose nearly all of their remaining games and fall from a playoff spot.

McCutchen has a better batting average (.323), more homeruns (20), more RBIs (82) and more stolen bases (27) than any of the Cardinals’ candidates.

And McCutchen is the leader of a team that has clinched its first winning season in 20 years and is on the verge of its first postseason appearance in that same time frame. Like it or not, some of the MVP voters will take that into consideration.

The Cardinals players can’t beat McCutchen with their numbers, and they cannot beat the story of his season in Pittsburgh.

But that’s how the MVP vote has gone for Cardinals players for a generation now. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa won the 1998 MVP even though Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire set the single-season homerun record at 70 because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds’ assault on the Major League Baseball record books overshadowed the great seasons Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had in 2004, and Bonds kept Pujols from winning the MVP in 2002 and 2003, as well.

The Cardinals have been blessed with players who have had seasons that rival the best in the game for much of the past 15 years, but sometimes a perennially good team with multiple players who have great seasons can keep any one of them from winning the ultimate individual award.

Of course, not many Cardinals fans or players would probably care if they get the chance to celebrate their third World Series championship in seven years in about six weeks.

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Carpenter, Beltran and the Cardinal’s Pandora’s Box

The big question regarding the Cardinals going ahead is how will all of the assets they have fit into one roster. While there is no clear solution to that question yet, one thing that is for certain is that the biggest variable is the team’s most versatile player, Matt Carpenter.

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Whenever the 2013 season comes to a close, the season’s steadiest question will quickly become its loudest: what is going to happen with Carlos Beltran? The club’s most high profile free agent-to-be has made no secret of his desire to return with the team next spring, but while admitting that it is on the club’s radar of decisions to be made, John Mozeliak has not public committed to what extent the team would be willing to go to in order to pursue a continued relationship between player and team.

The reasons for this are simple; despite an unquestionably strong tenure in the Cardinal uniform, including two All-Star Games and 55 home runs, neither age (he will turn 37 next year) nor positional alignment fit easily into the picture going ahead. Reasons for this have included most prominently the presence of Oscar Taveras at Memphis, but perhaps more quietly the price tag of a potential part-time presence in the outfield. Add in the urge to find more at-bats for Matt Adams, while not sacrificing Allen Craig’s presence in the lineup as well, and there are a plethora of optimal situations that make a Beltran return a tough situation to imagine.

But on the other side of the equation, there is the question of if the team can afford to let him go as well. He has been a dependable power threat in a season where they have been few and far between for the team. And the issue of if Taveras both returns healthy from the nagging ankle issue that ended his 2012 early, as well as how he transitions to the Majors, loom as well. If either of those issues looms, an absence of Beltran could create quite a hole for the team, which could have been avoided.

However, the presence of Carpenter could alleviate any and all of these issues. While he has risen to his call as a second baseman in a resounding fashion, he is only a year removed from being the team’s ultimate utility man. In the upcoming years, the everyday lineup of the Cardinals has the potential to fluctuate on nearly a matchup-to-matchup basis, due to the meeting of the veterans and emerging farm system at the MLB level.

A regular feature of this mix will be Carpenter, who Mozeliak made it abundantly clear the team will be pursuing a long-term pact with soon. However, his position going ahead could best be considered being deployed again as an everyday utility weapon, in the style of how Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist has been used over the years.  The best starting spot for this could prove to be right field, where alternating Carpenter in a few times a week gets a chance to use himself, David Freese and Kolten Wong together, in addition to allowing Allen Craig or Matt Adams to stay in a first base. A move back to second or third gets the uber, “Coming Atractions” duo of Wong and Taveras on the field together as well.

While the possibilities of the Cardinal lineup are very diverse in the next few years, there is a chance that the full potential is oddly not reached by keeping one of its current All-Stars in the mix, while maximizing the abilities of another showcases more of the team’s full potential can currently being imagined.

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