St. Louis Cardinals: Let’s End the Drama and Trade Kolten Wong

Feb 27, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) throws the bat as he walks during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2017; Fort Myers, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong (16) throws the bat as he walks during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

St. Louis Cardinals (starting/platoon/benched?) second baseman Kolten Wong has been the center of attention for the past week. Unfortunately, it has been because of his comments regarding wanting to be traded rather than his play.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Kolten Wong have been dancing back and forth with another for some time now. Wong wants to be a full-time player and believes he has the skills necessary to not only start, but to star on the team; General Manager John Mozeliak has spoken out numerous times about his belief in Wong’s potential and defense; and Mike Matheny has been his usual self in choosing some guys over others, including Wong, without explanation or visible logic.

Because of this constant distraction and issue for the team, maybe Kolten Wong should get his wish and be traded. Earlier this week Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked Wong whether he would rather be traded than to play in a platoon for the 2017 season.

Wong responded: “One hundred percent,” he said. “One hundred percent. I don’t want to be here wasting my time. I know what kind of player I am. If I don’t have the belief here, then I’ll go somewhere else.”

Those are very strong words coming from a career .248 hitter. Granted, Wong did go on to attempt to clarify the situation by saying that he spoke out of frustration and emotion. He said that he has been working incredibly hard this spring to improve on things and was told that he was the starting second baseman over the winter. Wong wanted a heads-up that he was still fighting for a job but was under the impression, along with the fans, that he had already won the starting job.

Wong finished top three for National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 and followed it up with a sophomore season that was very promising. He batted .262/.321/.386 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI through 150 games. He also played decent defense (.977 fielding percentage) and solidified himself as the second baseman of the team going forward…or so everyone thought.

After that season, Wong and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed on a contract extension dated March 2nd of last year. The extension was worth $25.5M over five years covering his arbitration years as well as two years of free agency. Many people, including Kolten himself, thought this extension secured his position on the team.

However, in 2016, Wong struggled mightily at the plate. He managed to bat for a mere .240/.327/.355 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 121 games. Wong was also demoted back in June due to his struggles as well as the overcrowded infield with Jhonny Peralta‘s return. At the time, Aledmys Diaz was red-hot so Peralta was to play third, Jedd Gyorko‘s power was hard to ignore, and Matt Carpenter needed to stay in the line-up.

Now, many fans still to this day question that decision to send Wong down to Memphis. Many think that he needs to be in the line-up over guys like Peralta because or his defensive potential. With Wong’s most recent comments, these thoughts and this debate has risen up once again.

Wong doesn’t want to be a platoon partner, he wants to play and was told this past winter that he will play. Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak are now considering a platoon at second base despite their past commitments. This platoon would likely be the tandem of Wong (left-handed hitter) and Gyorko (right-handed hitter).

Platoons are implemented to maximize the production of two players by balancing their strengths and weaknesses with one another. Here, Wong would play against right-handed pitchers while Gyorko would play against left-handed pitchers. The big issue with this idea, is the fact that there were countless amounts of comments by Mozeliak and Matheny that defense was a priority this season, and Wong does provide the best defensive option.

The other issue many fans, including myself, have thought of is why is second base the subject of a possible platoon when third base could use the same treatment? Jhonny Peralta is coming off a down year where he suffered a thumb injury that severely effected his offensive ability and his rebound is questionable yet it seems his job is secure as ever.

Greg Garcia and Gyorko could provide Peralta with platoon partners just as they could at second base but that idea has not been brought up by the St. Louis Cardinals. Only a second base platoon has.

Regardless, Wong’s situation, comments, and overall handling has become a complete mess. Whenever a player speaks out about playing for someone else while he is still under contract, there is something going wrong. And this situation doesn’t seem like one that is easily resolved unless Wong begins to hit well, Matheny keeps him in the line-up, or a behind the scenes discussion is had that resolves any disappointment and misunderstanding.

However, if the drama remains and the relationship continues to be tense, wouldn’t the solution be to actually trade Kolten Wong? And why shouldn’t the St. Louis Cardinals consider that? They have not fully committed to him since 2015 and have already back-tracked on their commitment to him for 2017.

They also have replacements in Gyorko and Garcia who both would likely love the opportunity to be platoon partners and could likely produce at a similar, if not better, level than Wong (more on this later this week).

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So go ahead and give Kolten Wong what he wants. Trade him to a team that will play him, or at least another team that also tells him he is the starter. Sure, there are plenty of arguments to be made as to why the St. Louis Cardinals should not trade him, but those are the same arguments to be made as to why he should be the full-time second baseman. And if those aren’t convincing enough to play him, are they convincing enough to keep him?