St. Louis Cardinals: Should the Cardinals Upgrade at Third Base?

Mar 11, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak signs an autograph for a young fan before a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak signs an autograph for a young fan before a spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /
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St. Louis Cardinals
Apr 14, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta (27) reacts to flying out against the New York Yankees during the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

It has been a tough two weeks for the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans. The team has a 5-9 record and is looking to build momentum. Some lone bright spots such as Mike Leake’s pitching or Jose Martinez’s hitting, have done little to dispel the slow start to the season.

For the St. Louis Cardinals, whether it has been the inconsistent pitching or the abysmal hitting the team has produced, it’s clear something is in need of change. Many fans have been extremely vocal about the team’s leadership under Mike Matheny. Fellow Redbird Rants writer, Dr. Miles, says the time isn’t now. Instead, I am going to focus on what the team can do to improve the lineup and, dare I say, defensively as well.

Last week I wrote about the Cardinals’ need to upgrade at third base. In the article I made my case to bring up Paul DeJong from AAA.  His fast start in the minors both offensively and defensively have made it difficult for the Cardinals to ignore. Ultimately, there are things that need to fall in place for that to happen. What other option do the Cardinals have?

If the Cardinals are not willing to invest in their young bats, then it is time to consider a trade for a third baseman. The right player can help solve the two biggest issues plaguing the team: hitting and defense.

I’ll first explain the two problems I believe the Cardinals cannot overcome without addressing the lineup.

The first problem is that the St. Louis Cardinals have no true third/fourth place hitter. The team no longer has a guy that can hit .280 with thirty home runs and ninety RBI. Does this type of player solve all the hitting problems for the Cardinals? Probably not, but I would be willing to bet the team would see an increase in production. If the Cardinals commit to keeping Matt Carpenter in the three hole, then it’s time to seek a true clean-up hitter.

I know the Cardinals have Stephen Piscotty, currently, as the clean-up hitter, but is that really his best spot in the order? If it were up to me, Piscotty would be hitting second in the order. He has power to all fields, but is more of a line drive hitter. He also has a good ability to get on base to set up your three and four hitters.

Take a look at his splits among his spots in the order:

Oddly enough, Piscotty is almost the same hitter in the second spot as the fourth spot. The power numbers are there along with his OBP. The only difference between the two spots is his batting average. He bats a full thirty points higher out of the second spot than clean-up. That kind of production would look great on a team that currently ranks last in BA across MLB.

But, let’s face it. There is no one else on the St. Louis Cardinals that can possibly be the clean-up guy. Other than Piscotty, the Cardinals have used Molina, Peralta, and Adams as the clean-up hitter. Our own, Dan Campbelll has even suggested Aledmys Diaz. Piscotty seems to be the only person that can exist comfortably as the clean-up hitter, but it would be nice to see him batting second and getting on base. Did someone mention Encarnacion? I digress.

The second problem that could be fixed for the Cardinals with a trade would be defense. Yes, the same defense that you were promised by Matheny and the front office. Honestly, I am tired of complaining about the team going against their own words. If they wanted better defense, then they should’ve fully addressed the issue when they had the chance.

Peralta is a shell of himself from two years ago both at the plate and defensively. It’s honestly hard to watch him play now. When he is batting, you are pretty much guaranteed a strike out. All you have to do is throw a slider down and away from him (you’re welcome opposing pitchers). Otherwise, jam him and he will pop up on the infield.

In the article I mentioned earlier, I don’t have anything good to say about Peralta’s defense either. He is a negative defensive runs saved and his range just isn’t there anymore. Again, hard to watch him play because of the simple things he cannot do anymore. Granted he did make a nice throw earlier this year, but one out of how many opportunities? Sigh.

The Cardinals have also relied on Jedd Gyorko to man the hot corner. Defensively, they are similar players at third base. Jedd has a RZR of .667 accroding to Fangraphs. This rating puts him in the “awful” rating of the stat. The RZR essentially means Jedd’s range is limited like Peralta’s. Jedd is also worth negative defensive runs as well.

So where does that leave us? At this point, I think the Cardinals could stand to do some major tinkering with the lineup. Going after a third baseman who fits the profile as an upgrade defensively and offensively is where I’d start. So which one should the Cardinals go after?