Harrison Bader was entering his most important season yet with the St. Louis Cardinals in what could ultimately determine his long-term outlook with the organization.
It’s not off to a good start.
Bader is expected to miss a minimum of four weeks with a forearm injury and will start the season on the Iniured List, manager Mike Shildt told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Bader will receive a PRP injection, which is no guarantee to work, considering pitcher Miles Mikolas suffered a setback after getting one.
It’s a huge blow to the Cardinals, considering that Bader was scheduled to be their Opening Day center fielder. Now, the team will have to rely on their outfield depth, perhaps Lane Thomas, to fill the void. In the meantime, they could move Dylan Carlson to center, though Shildt has not given any indication that is a possibility.
But even with those options, losing Bader puts the Cardinals in a precarious position. He is an elite defensive center fielder and was vying to win his first Gold Glove Award this season. However, he has drawn ire from fans due to his poor offense, especially against right-handed pitchers.
The Cardinals were optimistic that Bader could finally put it all together, given his offseason work dedicated toward becoming a complete player, but he won’t be able to showcase that until late April or early May, barring a setback of any kind.
The Cardinals will have to weather the storm until he comes back, and should be able to with their internal options. But if he is out longer than expected, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak could turn to the trade market, though he would most likely want to invest resources on pitching depth instead.