While some see Matt Carpenter getting the start at 2nd base last night as just a way to get him some at-bats, I see something else. I see the seemingly innocuous occurrence as a harbinger of something in the works. How else might one explain the sudden need to get Matt some playing time? After all, Matheny has never pushed for Carpenter to get at-bats like this before, and the timing seems suspect.
Either the Cardinals are gauging Carpenter’s ability to play 2B in addition to having RF, LF, 1B, and 3B on his resume as a way of showing prospective buyers what value he can bring, or the Cardinals want to assess this for themselves in order to make someone else expendable. The most likely scenario may see him taking time away from Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso at 2B. The move could push Skip Schumaker to the bench more frequently, and it could also mean that Greene or Descalso (or both) are on the trading block. Think it over.
- Matt Carpenter – .295/.369/.504/.873 with 4 triples, 3 HR, and 21 RBI in 149 PAs
- Skip Schumaker – .294/.361/.404/.765 with 2 triples, 0 HR, and 11 RBI in 123 PAs
- Daniel Descalso – .223/.314/.335/.649 with 3 triples, 3 HR, and 11 RBI in 206 PAs
- Tyler Greene – .228/.287/.380/.666 with 2 triples, 4 HR, and 16 RBI in 172 PAs
No doubt that many in Cardinal Nation would like to see Greene go, but he brings very little value in return. One might make the case that Descalso has more trade value, because he plays great defense. Truth be told, Descalso plays reasonably decent defense at multiple positions which should not be mistaken for great defense. Realistically, the platoon at 2B should probably just include Carpenter and Schumaker with Skip getting an occasional outfield start in either RF or LF.
I’ve been asked over and over about what happens when Lance Berkman returns from the DL. Simple answer: not much. With the Cardinals basically getting innings out of Allen Craig at 1B, I basically see swapping Berkman for Craig as a zero sum game. That’s no knock against Berkman, but Craig has been knocking the stitches out of the ball for a while now. I’m unconvinced that the Cardinals will score more runs with Berkman playing at 1B instead of Allen Craig.
In my mind, that puts Craig and Berkman into a timeshare situation with Beltran and Holliday to cover 2 corner outfield spots and 1B. That would give Matheny the ability to mix and match lineups without a huge production drop. Luxury? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
- LF – Holliday, Craig, and Schumaker
- CF – Jay, Beltran, Schumaker
- RF – Beltran, Craig, Berkman, Schumaker, Jay
While that does leave Shane Robinson out of the mix as a starter, that does not mean he won’t see time as a defensive substitution. It just means Matheny might have more trouble justifying a switch. With such a strong outfield rotation, the Cardinals could keep everyone a little fresher through the summer. Not a bad idea at all. Is there a chance that the Cardinals could swing a big trade for pitching using one of these guys? Highly unlikely. They almost certainly would have to throw in a good pitching prospect.
So you’re saying there still is a chance? Sure, but it doesn’t make much sense without a huge haul in return. Lance Berkman has a full no-trade clause in his $12M deal for 2012. Carlos Beltran also has a full no-trade clause. Matt Holliday has a full no-trade clause. Allen Craig does not, and I can guess about 20 teams that would love to add his bat to their lineups. Unlikely. I consider this especially unlikely when you consider the team’s talent pipeline. They can potentially replace a lot of guys, but Allen Craig is not one of them.
Ryan Jackson potentially replaces Rafael Furcal. Kolten Wong may be the heir apparent at 2B. Oscar Tavaras could be the next big outfield bat a few years down the road. The Memphis Redbirds have no shortage of players with major league experience, even if some of them are currently spending time with the big club. When you look at the big picture in terms of organizational depth, payroll considerations, and needs, the potential scenarios become somewhat obvious.
With Chris Carpenter done for the season and Jaime Garcia questionable at best, the Cardinals need to strengthen the bullpen. The degree to which they perceive this may determine how they move forward. With the innings they are getting from Boggs, Motte, and now Barret Browning, they are back to being able to make some games 6 inning affairs. That doesn’t mean that they can do it every night. They could make a move for a bullpen arm, and they are not restricted to looking just at LHP. They could also strengthen the bullpen by adding a starter and moving Joe Kelly to the pen. The problem with that move is that Kelly has been awfully good as a starter.
So, what makes the most sense? Well, it makes a lot of sense to go with a misdirection play. If they go out looking for a starter, they may stumble upon a deal for a reliever or even a hybrid guy. If they go out saying that they need relief help, then the price potentially goes up for a reliever. Simply market dynamics. Create a increased demand, and the price for the limited supply will rise.
Matt Adams may be the biggest name the Cardinals will make available, and many people have already discussed the possibility. What about Shelby Miller? You cannot convince me that the Cardinals wouldn’t consider trading Miller for the right deal. That deal could be a huge one, especially when you consider that the Cardinals could create payroll room for 2013 by declining Jake Westbrook‘s option and not bringing back Lance Berkman. Those 2 moves represent about $19.5M in payroll savings from 2012 to 2013. That potentially puts someone like Cole Hamels in the cross hairs, but that might be a stretch. Same for Zach Greinke who the Brewers would likely be loathe to trade to a division rival. That doesn’t preclude someone the Astros or Cubs might be willing to part with. Wandy Rodriguez? Maybe. Would Jeff Luhnow be interested in acquiring Matt Adams and potentially someone like Skip Schumaker in a large deal? Would a Rodriguez and Wilton Lopez deal for a potential 1B of the present/future and a OF who hits for average be an attractive option for the Astros. Sure, why not? They are trying to build a talent base while also keeping an eye on their budget. Most importantly, it’s not like they are going to be in the NL much longer.
At the very least, it might be worth the time for Mo to talk with Jeff. It’s not like they haven’t met, so it would be a challenge for one side to really fleece the other. Maybe Uncle Mo could be the next master of trade baiting.