All three starting outfielders from the St. Louis Cardinals 2012 playoff team will be back filling similar roles in 2013. Matt Holliday will be patrolling left field, Jon Jay will be returning in center field and Carlos Beltran will be returning in right field.
The question regarding Beltran is which player will be returning in 2013. Will it be the Beltran of the first half that tore the cover off the ball? Or will it be the Beltran that looked tired and fought injuries the second half?
So who fills out the fourth outfield position, late inning bat off the bench and fills in a few days a week to rest Beltran if needed?
Don’t count on Skip Schumaker to fill that role for the Cards as he has in years past, playing a multitude of positions in the infield and outfield. If rumors are to be believed, he may have played his last game in Cardinal red already.
Matt Carpenter (.294 AVG, .365 OBP, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 114 G), drafted as a third baseman, was told to work at learning the outfield last off season. This off season, management has told him to come to spring training prepared to get in some reps at second base. Carpenter could get some of the utility man work that Schumaker has in the past.
The spot could be filled from outside the organization via trade or free agency. General manager John Mozeliak is looking for a right handed hitter with some pop off the bench to fill the fourth outfield spot.
If that is the case, then internal option Adron Chambers (.222 AVG, .375 OBP, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 41 G) may be excluded from the mix. Chambers has yet to prove himself as a big league hitter and does not have home run pop. His speed and defensive abilities may be an attractive option if he has a strong spring. The only other outfielder on the Cardinals 40-man roster is Shane Robinson (.253 AVG, .309 OBP, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 102 G).
Of the internal options, Carpenter is the most versatile and has shown some talent at the big league level. I don’t throw around sabermetric numbers often, but Carpenter had an even 1.0 WAR in 2012. Chambers (0.3 WAR) and Robinson (0.6 WAR) however are limited by playing just the outfield. Both have been barely above replacement level in their big league stints.
My take: The only assumption I will make is that Schumaker will not be back in 2013. Following that logic, if the season were to start tomorrow, I would think the fourth outfield spot would have to go to Carpenter out of spring training. That is of course not taking many factors into consideration. Primarily how much emphasis Mozeliak intends to place on getting a contract extension with ace Adam Wainwright done before spring training. With the recent contract signed by Zack Greinke with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Wainwright’s value may have risen. Will it be too much that it handcuffs Mozeliak from making more upgrades for next year?
We’ll see what plays out and how much leverage the Cardinals have in making a deal outside the organization for a fourth outfielder.
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