Could the St. Louis Cardinals bring back Matt Carpenter?
By Josh Jacobs
After having a bounce back season with the Yankees, could Matt Carpenter be a valuable role player for the Cardinals in 2023?
The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to add a left-handed bat to their lineup as well as some infield depth in 2023, and they could kill two bird with one stone by bringing back INF Matt Carpenter this winter.
Carpenter was a staple of the Cardinals lineup from 2012-2021, going from unheralded prospect to indispensable utility man, and eventually becoming a true MVP candidate in the National League. During his 11 years in St. Louis, Carpenter slashed .262/.368/.449 with 155 HR and 576 RBI while playing the corner infield positions and second base for St. Louis. His last two years with the club were a disappointing end to his Cardinal career and ended up moving on from the club.
After a brief stint in the Texas Rangers organization, the 36-year old signed a deal with the New York Yankees as the club was battling a variety of injuries, and instantly Carpenter turned into one of the hottest players in all of baseball. In 47 games, Carpenter his .305/.412/.727 with 15 HR and 37 RBI while finding time at the corner infield, corner outfield, and designated hitter spots. His bat once again showed it has the potential to be elite.
Ban of shift could benefit Carpenter more than anyone else in baseball
The ban of the shift may spell the end of any hope that Carpenter could be an average defender at second base again, but may actually help the former Cardinal continue to regain his form at the plate. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the club is looking into players who may have been impacted by the shift.
In 2022, Carpenter faced a shift (three players on the right side of the infield) in 89.5% of his at-bats. Since he was red-hot in the 47 games he played, it did not affect him all that much, but in prior years, it killed a lot of his value. Back in 2021, where Carpenter his .169/.305/.275 for St. Louis, he faced the shift in 91.5% of his at-bats, 9th most in all of baseball. His wOBA when facing the shift was an abysmal .253, and contributed to the majority of his struggles. When the shift was not on against Carpenter, he saw his wOBA rise all the way up to .444, an elite number.
There is no way that Carpenter could maintain an .444 wOBA throughout an entire season, but even hard regression could see him around that .400 wOBA number, which would be an incredible addition to the Cardinals lineup, especially as a complementary bat. Carpenter may find a resurgence as an on-base bat with pop under the new rule changes, and St. Louis should be the one to benefit from that, especially since he will not command much on the open market.
Keep an eye on a reunion between this Carpenter and his former team this winter. The Cardinals will likely be trading some of their young bench bats to acquire a new catcher or starting pitcher, leaving room for the club to bring back the veteran for a second run.
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