Cardinals bench situation gets even more crowded and confusing

The signing of shortstop Brandon Crawford complicates the bench player situation for the St. Louis Cardinals.

San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

Depth is vital to a team's success. Players are bound to get hurt and/or underperform, so having capable role players who can fill in when someone else goes down is key. However, too much depth, particularly one-dimensional depth, can hamper a team's flexibility and its prospects.

After signing shortstop Brandon Crawford on Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals have once again squeezed younger players with higher ceilings out of a bench spot. Now, this isn't to say the Brandon Crawford signing is bad. In fact, he will play an important role as the team's sole bench player who can play shortstop at an above-average defensive level.

Rather, the team's inking of veteran Matt Carpenter becomes more confounding each day. Carpenter, 38, can only play designated hitter or first base. In a severe pinch, he could fill in at third base or second base, but his defensive glory days at either position are long in the past. St. Louis also boasts two outfielders in Dylan Carlson and Alec Burleson on the bench in addition to Ivan Herrera, the team's lone backup catcher.

For those who are keeping count at home, that makes five bench players for only four pots. Someone will get pushed away, and it is likely that the player is Alec Burleson.

All offseason, there was the potential that Tommy Edman wouldn't be ready for Opening Day. The fans knew this, Oliver Marmol knew this, and John Mozeliak knew this. It was no surprise that the Cardinals didn't have a viable backup shortstop behind their starting center fielder--and that situation alone was perplexing. So, why did the Cardinals sign Matt Carpenter in the first place way back in January?

Marp, for as storied and well-liked he is on the roster, didn't have a positional fit on this team. Alec Burleson and Willson Contreras could play first base. One of Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan would be the primary DH while the other was the team's starting second baseman, and other players could use the DH spot as a day off the field. Gorman, Donovan, or even Edman could spell Nolan Arenado at third base. Matt Carpenter did not have a spot on the team aside from being a proven veteran voice.

Yet, John Mozeliak, with the input of All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, saw his voice as a necessity in a clubhouse that had already experienced a reversal in leadership voices with the acquisitions of Kyle Gibson, Lance Lynn, and Sonny Gray. Brendan Donovan had also been emerging as a powerful leader in the locker room.

Matt Carpenter's signing at this point becomes even more confounding. He is blocking young players like Alec Burleson and Thomas Saggese from getting a fair shake in the majors, and he didn't serve a positional role with the team.