Tommy Edman has forced himself back into the Cardinals' plans

Tommy Edman's sparkling defense in center field has suddenly made him a vital piece for the St. Louis Cardinals' immediate future.

Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals
Houston Astros v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

It's likely only a matter of time before the St. Louis Cardinals are officially eliminated from playoff contention, and many fans have tapped out on the season. But those who remain have been treated to something exceptional lately: longtime infielder Tommy Edman's elite defense in center field.

The fearless Edman made two more outstanding plays in center field on Sept. 7, and Edman, who was frequently considered a trade candidate because of a glut of infield talent, may have now found a new long-term home in the St. Louis outfield.

Edman is currently eight outs above average, according to Statcast. His arm is light for the position, but it shouldn't prevent him from playing there. The Cardinals should therefore not bother spending money on the outfield this offseason, instead allocating funds to shoring up the rotation.

Two of the top center field free agents, Kevin Kiermaier and former Cardinal Harrison Bader, are excellent defenders but haven't been as reliable as Edman when it comes to staying on the field. The Cardinals' top center field option in the minor leagues is Victor Scott, who is currently hitting .299 with a whopping 87 stolen bases across High-A and Double-A this season.

Scott will likely debut with the Cardinals in 2024 if he continues to play like this, and if everything goes to plan, he should be the starting center fielder in 2025. But for a stopgap solution, Edman works perfectly.

This raises the question of how the rest of the outfield would be aligned. Tyler O'Neill is unlikely to be with the Cardinals next season, and Jordan Walker has a stranglehold on right field. Lars Nootbaar looks to be the favorite for the left field job, so Dylan Carlson could be the odd man out, as Edman can hit roughly at Carlson's level and has less of an injury history. With Alec Burleson also available, the Cardinals are likely to face the same issue they did coming into 2023: a crowded outfield.

While Edman is valuable to the Cardinals, other teams are surely taking notice of his outfield prowess. One could argue that Nootbaar plays a fine center field and that the Cardinals should trade Edman now that he has shown more value with his ability to play there. But the Cardinals, who are in the early stages of adapting to a more strikeout-focused pitching staff, still rely on their defense more than most teams and thus will probably get more value from Edman than many other teams would.

Edman has seen his role grow for the Cardinals and has acclimated to center field better than anyone could have expected. He has transformed himself from an expendable piece to someone whom the Cardinals would do well to keep around. Fans shouldn't be surprised if Edman seizes the starting center field position next season.