St. Louis Cardinals: José Martínez is creating an outfield logjam
José Martínez has been hitting the cover off the ball this season, and his continued production has turned into a good problem for the St. Louis Cardinals.
St. Louis Cardinals outfielder José Martínez is bringing joy to fans and teammates with his outstanding hitting and peppy attitude, but he’s causing headaches for manager Mike Shildt when it comes to filling out the lineup card.
The Cardinals started the year with an outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader, with Tyler O’Neill as the primary fourth outfielder. Martínez has forced himself into the starting lineup after injuries to Bader and O’Neill, and with Fowler having to take some time out with the flu recently, Martínez continues to see opportunities. And he’s making the most of them.
Martínez is hitting well over .300, and he’s eclipsed that mark in his three previous seasons. The only thing keeping him from a full-time role is his shaky fielding. If he had a solid glove, Martínez would likely be an everyday outfielder on almost any team. As it is, despite his excellent production, he might find himself on the bench more often than not when Fowler comes back.
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The Cardinals are fortunate to have a glut of outfield talent, and Shildt faces the unenviable task of deciding whom to start and when. Martínez’s likeliest competitor for playing time is Harrison Bader, who can run, field and throw, but is less potent with the bat. It’s up to Shildt to determine which skill set he prefers.
The fact that there are too many players in the Cardinals outfield vying for playing time makes one of these players a prime candidate for a trade. Martínez seems to be the most logical solution, as he would be right at home as a designated hitter in the American League.
But with the DH rule creeping ever closer to becoming universal throughout baseball, perhaps holding on to Martínez is the right move. In addition to being productive on the field, there is little doubt that he is a prime contributor to clubhouse chemistry, which should not be overlooked.
If the Cardinals trade Martínez, it would be understandable, but it would also be a shame. Martínez contributes so much to the team and is an offensive force. But as much as I would complain about the NL’s adopting the designated hitter, the silver lining would be Martinez’s constant presence in the lineup, making it even more dangerous.
Martínez is a feel-good story for the Cardinals as well, as he was purchased from the Kansas City Royals after not receiving a chance in the major leagues. There is no doubt that he has taken advantage of it, and despite the glove, he deserves a spot in the starting lineup until he proves otherwise.