Sometimes, life is not fair. You can do everything right, and be deserving of an opportunity, and yet, circumstances get in the way. I'm sure Luken Baker has been feeling that lately about his time with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Baker was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2018 MLB draft out of TCU, and since 2021, has slugged 79 home runs, including a MiLB-leading 32 home runs for the Memphis Redbirds this season.
It's clear that Baker has proven everything he can at the minor-league level. He's 26 now and has a 1.173 OPS at the Triple-A. Even if he's got holes in his game, the time has run out for him to be held below the Major League level to figure those things out. The problem facing Baker right now isn't proving himself to the Cardinals, it's finding the right opportunities.
Baker is a 1B/DH player. Unfortunately, he is behind the reigning National League Most Valuable Player on the depth chart. Sure, he could be the backup to Goldschmidt, but his days off are few, and the Cardinals also want to get Alec Burleson opportunities there as well.
Okay, so why not have him DH then? Well, that's a pretty clogged position as well. Burleson, Nolan Gorman, and Tyler O'Neill seem to be getting the most shots there right now, with almost all of the Cardinals' regular starters getting rotated into that spot as well on rest days.
I'd love to see Baker get more opportunities in St. Louis as well, but I just don't see how the Cardinals manage to do that right now unless they are okay with Baker not playing much.
Before you say "Well how are Jose Fermin and Taylor Motter on the roster over him?", one of those guys, until Maysn Winn is called up, need to be on the roster to provide middle infield options for the Cardinals. If Edman or Gorman need an off day, Baker cannot fill in at one of those spots. Sure, he could replace one of them, but how often will he realistically get at-bats?
The other problem for St. Louis is I'm not sure how much they could actually get for him in a trade if they decide to let him blossom elsewhere. The most comparable player to Baker in terms of his situation is Luke Voit, who got a bit more opportunities in St. Louis than Baker has. If the Cardinals can pull off a similar trade and acquire a Major League reliever, that seems like a good bet for the club, but I'm sure they fear him going out and hitting bombs for another club.
If the Cardinals believe Baker could be a better DH option than some of the other players on their roster, then he needs to be getting those at-bats right now so they can see what they have. I just do know if that will happen in a way that is satisfactory to Baker, fans, or the club from an evaluation standpoint, which is why I'm not sure there is an easy answer to this "problem" they find themselves in.