Whenever a starter is lost in your lineup due to injury it is never a good thing. This is the case with the recent injury to St. Louis Cardinals first basemen, Matt Adams. While Adams has only performed to a disappointing .243/.281/.375 slash-line with 4 home runs and 20 RBIs in 153 plate appearances, there was reason to believe that Adams was going to come around. After all, he hit over .280 the previous two seasons and showed that 25 home runs was a realistic possibility
The Cardinals have elected for internal options, giving Mark Reynolds the keys to the starting position while promoting long-time Minor League catcher, Ed Easley. Mark Reynolds is known for two things. Hitting home runs and striking out. This season Reynolds’ numbers are .250/.314/.406 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI over 105 plate appearances. While Reynolds has put up better numbers than Adams at this point, his career statistics do not bode as well.
For his career Reynolds has hit to a tune of .230/.324/.406 putting up 227 career home runs. He has hit for over 20 home runs seven times, over 30 two times and hit 40 one time in his career. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Reynolds has struck out 1433 times leading the league four times and putting up over 200 strikeouts three times. Though he has gotten plenty of at-bats since 2013, he has spent a lot of his time in a platoon or part-time role.
The promotion of Easley could just be to buy some more time until the Cardinals figure out their roster, it is more likely to give playing time to Tony Cruz and Yadier Molina at first base. Molina has started 4 game but played in 32 games over the span of 10 seasons at first base. Cruz has played 6 games at first base but has shown enough versatility to play third base and outfield.
Reynolds will suffice being the starter for now, after all, he was producing better than Adams. But, there are concerns that the team needs to consider.
- They were expecting more from Matt Adams at first base and were more likely going to get it.
- Expecting Reynolds batting average to stay at even .250 is wishful thinking.
While Adams’ strikeout to walk ratio is hardly a good thing, he has always been a free-swinger. He is going to strikeout often and walk less than often. While he has proven that he should not hit against left-handed pitchers, he has been solid in the past against right-handed pitchers. They believed Adams was going to hit .280 this season and hit around 20 home runs. To dive in further to this point, they expected more out of the first base position. Meaning, Reynolds was going to play a majority of the time against left-handers, also providing depth and power off the bench in late game situations when he wasn’t starting. That option is now gone.
In a full-time role Reynolds has been a productive player, but a liability. While he still has the power to hit 20 home runs, he did only hit .196 last season. He has only hit better than .250 twice during his career and one of those seasons hasn’t happened since 2009. He is going to strikeout, hit home runs and frustrate you in a full-time role.
Reynolds deserves to get some time in a full-time position, but if it doesn’t last. And there is a lot of statistical analysis that points in the direction of it not lasting, where do the Cardinals turn? A list of options:
- Ryan Howard – Howard is a St. Louis native and the Phillies have been looking to trade him to give more time to their younger players. While Howard is not worth the $50 MM left on the rest of this season and next season, the Phillies would eat a majority of that deal. Howard could be had for a low-level prospect (if that) and the Cardinals chipping somewhere between $5-$15MM total. The team could likely get him with the Phillies paying all of his contract if they traded Bourjos. Howard hasn’t really been productive since 2011, the same year he went down to injury. Yet this season he has shown some of his old power hitting 10 home runs with a .261/.304/.539 slash line. He also comes with a high number of strikeouts and is 35 years old.
- Stephen Piscotty – Piscotty is the highest rated prospect in the Cards farm system. If he truly belongs in the MLB it should probably happen sometime this season. However, Piscotty is an outfielder and it would take some creativity on Matheny’s end to make this happen. But, it isn’t unrealistic. Way back in Spring Training rumors were flying that this could be a possibility. And while he is still at Memphis he could get some practice time playing first base. Though, he has never played a game there professionally.
- Allen Craig – Much like Howard, Craig can be had for almost nothing and the Red Sox taking on much of his salary. Yet, Craig hasn’t really for two-straight seasons and would need to prove he can do this before the Cardinals trust him to come back and play first base.
- Crazy Option – Alex Rodriguez. Just kidding.
The trade market has not really evolved at this point and other options could become available down the road. If some teams are not in the playoff race here are some options that could become available. Each comes with their own price.
- Chris Davis – Baltimore – .208/.288/.423, 8 HR, Contract expires 2015.
- Mark Trumbo – Arizona – .262/.299/.497, 7 HR, Arbitration expires 2016.
- Adam LaRoche – White Sox – .216/.352/.343, 4 HR, Contract expires 2016.
- Justin Morneau – Rockies -.290/.317/.450, 3 HR, Contract expires 2015, mutual option for 2016.
- Mike Napoli – Red Sox – .214/.313/.421, 8 HR, Contract expires 2015.
- Pedro Alvarez – Pirates – .241/.325/.489, 9 HR, Arbitration expires 2016
- Brandon Moss – Indians – .219/.295/.425 7 HR, Arbitration expires 2016.
There could be even more options that open-up during the season as teams figure out if they will be in the playoff hunt. Bigger names are unlikely, and will cost the Cardinals valuable prospects. For the time being, Reynolds will be given the opportunity. Mozeliak has had success during his tenure as General Manager to get what he needs. He will do that again if he needs to make a move. That move is yet to be determined.