St. Louis Cardinals infielder, Matt Carpenter, recently took grounders at second base, in hopes of providing more flexibility to the roster.
The St. Louis Cardinals find themselves in a very peculiar place at this point in the season. The Cardinals are winners of four straight games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals. However, upon return from Arizona, media members noted a familiar face at second base; it wasn’t Kolten Wong.
Matt Carpenter, who primarily is the team’s first baseman, took ground balls at second base.
Like many of you, it surprised me as well to see me Carpenter taking infield at second base. It raised many questions in my in head. What is wrong with Kolten Wong? Is someone getting traded? What about a move to third base instead? What is the purpose of this particular move then?
I’ll address those questions a little later on, but first I want you to check out some video from Fox Sports Midwest on the news of Matt Carpenter’s move.
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What is wrong with Kolten Wong?
I’m not suggesting anything is actually wrong with Kolten Wong, but the idea did cross my mind. At first, there were reports saying Wong could come back before the All-Star break.
Then, more news came out saying the St. Louis Cardinals expect Wong back after the All-Star break.
Rick Hummel, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported Wong still experiencing some lingering pain in his arm. I’d be remiss if I didn’t wonder how hurt Wong truly is.
Carpenter taking grounders at second base isn’t, and shouldn’t be, big news. As Mike Matheny said in the video above, Carpenter takes infield all over the diamond. Whether it is third, first, or second, Carpenter is just putting emphasis at second base. The timing of everything just stink, I guess.
More than likely, the St. Louis Cardinals are giving Wong as much time as needed to return fully healthy to the lineup. If it takes up until the All-Star break, so be it. However, if this lingering pain still exists, you’ll have to wonder what else is going. At that point, you start preparing for a prolonged absence.
Is someone getting traded?
While this question will surface many times in July, it’s only fair we explore it now with the recent news. I’ll go out on a limb here and say this: Neither Kolten Wong or Matt Carpenter will be traded. However, that does not save players like Paul DeJong, Greg Garcia, Jose Martinez, and Alex Mejia.
Wong’s return will require a corresponding roster move. Could the St. Louis Cardinals deal any of these players before Wong’s return? I highly doubt it. Our very own, Dr. Michael Miles, believes DeJong is auditioning for a trade. Given his success so far, it’s not a bad thought. However, I think the Cardinals are feeling a little reluctant to let go of the man currently manning shortstop.
What about the other players mentioned? Recent call-up, Luke Voit, is an interesting name to keep in mind at the trade deadline. However, any one of those names mentioned is a tradable piece. Some are more valuable than others, but still occupy Wong’s roster spot.
While I don’t expect the St. Louis Cardinals to make any trades at the beginning of July, I won’t rule it out shortly after the All-Star break. Wong will take some rehab assignments to get back into the swing of things, but it shouldn’t take too long. The only other logical choice to open a roster spot is sending Alex Mejia back down.
What about a move to third base instead?
Matt Carpenter has seen time at third base and second base in his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals. While most remember him as a second baseman, third base is natural position. Coincidentally, Jedd Gyorko‘s natural position is second base, not third. Would it not make more sense to swap those two instead?
There is only one thing that comes in mind about this question: The St. Louis Cardinals are not expecting to use Matt Carpenter at second base permanently.
Because of this, it would make no sense for the Cardinals to take away defensive reps from Gyorko at third base. Gyorko has done a fine job at third base defensively. While he does make some mistakes, it is clear the Cardinals are comfortable with him manning the hot corner.
I also believe the strain of third base might negatively affect the team if Carpenter is at third. While I still think he be a third baseman, the Cardinals recognize Carpenter’s value is elsewhere. Is that a slight on Carpenter? I don’t think so. It’s more of a “you’re needed elsewhere. Thanks for being a team player.”
Could he return to third base at some point? I guess, but not likely.
What is the purpose of this move then?
In the video above, Mike Matheny mentions moving Carpenter allows the lineup some flexibility. By giving Carpenter some reps at second base, it allows Matheny to build the lineup in different ways. Crazily enough, I actually believe him to some extent.
While Matt Carpenter is still the everyday first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, his ability to field second base creates other opportunities around the field. He could be used in a double switch to bring in Luke Voit (forget about yesterday’s game). He could also be a straight swap for a player like Paul DeJong if a right-handed relief pitcher is brought in.
While it will create more at-bats for players like Jose Martinez, Tommy Pham, and Luke Voit, you have to wonder if there is an ulterior motive anywhere else. Again, this isn’t a permanent move to second base. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m still skeptical of the situation. I mean former Cardinals GM, John Mozeliak, now President of Baseball Operations, said big things were coming in July, right?
As I said, I don’t think there is really more into this move besides providing flexibility. However, it did raise a couple of questions in my mind. What other questions did you have upon hearing the news?