The Nolan Arenado trade helps the St. Louis Cardinals but complicates things for Matt Carpenter. What could his role be in 2021?
It has been hard to watch Matt Carpenter play the last two seasons. After signing a two-year, $39M extension after his solid 2018 season, Carpenter’s strikeout percentage has risen to 26.2% in 2019 and 28.4% in last year’s shortened season. Subsequently, his value has almost become replacement level, as he hasn’t reached 100 wRC+ the last two seasons and finished with just 0.1 bWAR last year for the St. Louis Cardinals.
So for perhaps the first time in Carpenter’s career, he will take on a platoon role with the Cardinals’ acquisition of Nolan Arenado. One option Carpenter could take on would be the DH role for the Cardinals.
Unfortunately, unless something unforeseen happens, the National League will not have a designated hitter for the 2021 season.
Rick Hummel (aka “The Commish”) of the St. Louis Sports Dispatch sees Carpenter as the DH for the Cardinals if there is one ahead of Tyler O’Neill due to O’Neill’s low contact rate. But with no DH for the National League, we are back to square one.
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Option two is for Carpenter to take on a spot starter for Arenado, Goldschmidt, or if need be, Tommy Edman at second base. This is where Mike Shildt could take advantage of Carpenter’s versatility in the infield. It’s quite possible we also will see more pinch-hit appearances for Carpenter toward the end of some games in 2021. If Mike Shildt wants to get really crazy, Carpenter does have 117 career innings in the outfield.
Although there is no definitive role for Matt Carpenter this year, all signs point to him platooning on the bench between Arenado and Goldschmidt. No designated hitter this year directly hurts Carpenter’s chances of entering the game. For some baseball veterans, they might begrudgingly accept the platoon role or just flat out refuse.
Thankfully, Carpenter has proven to be a team-first player, so I do not imagine this scenario will cause much consternation in the Cardinals clubhouse.