Matt Carpenter’s continued emergence is going to provide the Cardinals front office with a ton of flexibility going forward as John Mozeliak and company will inevitably tinker with their everyday roster trying to find the right mix of payroll and production. With many highly touted prospects on the way, some tough decisions are going to have to be made in the very near future, but one decision that won’t have to be made until at least the spring of 2016 will be what to do with Matt Carpenter.
This season, Carpenter has proven more than serviceable defensively at both 2nd base (0 Errors in 150.1 Innings played) and 3rd base (2 Errors in 119 Innings played). Carpenter currently ranks 2nd in the NL with 7 double plays turned at 3rd base. He also capably handled both corner outfield roles occasionally last season, thus adding to his versatility as an all-around defensive player. While his defense is nice, it’s his hitting, and on base percentage in particular, that’s really beginning to cement his roster spot for the foreseeable future in St. Louis.
In 136 plate appearances this season, Carpenter has an on base percentage of .351, while hitting for a .281 average, which includes 3 home runs. He currently ranks 1st in the NL in doubles (12), 4th in the NL in Runs scored (26), and 8th in the NL in Sac Flies (7). Put simply, he produces when called upon.
Where does he fit in long term?
Certainly, most fans know that Kolten Wong is on the cusp of taking over the everyday 2nd base job. Whether it happens later this season, or Opening Day 2014, the time is almost at hand. Wong’s ascension will bump Carpenter off 2nd base, a position that he has transitioned to and manned to perfection thus far, recording zero errors on 87 chances in 150.1 innings of play.
Maybe he could move to RF when Beltran’s contract expires after this year. Nope. Super Prospect Oscar Taveras has already called dibs on it, and it will be his to lose going into Opening Day 2014.
The way I see it, the Cards have 1 ultra valuable piece they can use, perhaps packaged with a pitcher like Joe Kelly, to trade for a long term solution at SS, a bonafide closer, or whatever else Mozeliak may feel is lacking with the current club: David Freese.
Freese has 2 arbitration eligible seasons remaining before he reaches free agency. From this point forward, his value is not going to get any higher. If the Cards don’t view him as a long term core player worthy of a massive extension then the time is not going to get any better to deal him away and improve the club.
I imagine that a move trading away one of St. Louis’ favorite sons would not be accepted with open arms by many in the fan base, but the fact remains that there is a viable alternative capable of handling his position currently emerging onto the mainstream scene.