How will the left side of the infield play out for the Cardinals in 2019? Who knows, but it might be the most interesting question for this off-season. The Cardinals are blessed and cursed by having multiple players who can play multiple positions. It brings up the question… Is this why the Cardinals led the Major Leagues in errors? It seemed that so many guys were counted on to play multiple positions and maybe they couldn’t get comfortable. First, let’s look at who the Cardinals have and who out of them can be counted on full time at either position.
1. Paul DeJong – SS
Let’s get this out of the way early. Paul DeJong should be playing every day. Even with a wrist injury this past season, DeJong was still very productive for the Cardinals. He had a .241/.313/.433/ split with a .746 OPS with 19 HR. He did cut down his strikeout rate slightly over 2017 while also improving his walk rate. He looks set to come back in 2019 and have a stellar season at the plate. His defense at the SS position improved tremendously over his rookie season as well. He was 4th in Major League Baseball at the SS position with 14 DRS. The Cardinals are almost certain to look at the left side of the infield and there is a chance that a move could shift DeJong back to 3B in 2019. But more on that down below.
2. Jedd Gyorko – 3B
I wish we could quit doing this every year with Gyorko. He is a productive hitter and a plus defender at Third, but for whatever reason he can’t a hold of the full time job at third. Injuries do happen, but he has seen his overall play diminish since he joined the Cardinals in 2016, but the last two seasons he has played substantially more at third base. Between 2017 and 2018, Gyorko has 22 DRS at third base which is good for 3rd in all of baseball. He can play third base, but needs to get to 150 games played in order to fully maximize his potential. His power numbers have dropped during his tenure as well which is discouraging. He went from 30 HR in 2016, 20 in 2017, to just 11 in 2018. He has risen his average closer to .265 over the past two seasons, but his production via extra base hits seems to have diminished. I’d love to see the Cardinals just give Gyorko the full time job in 2019 and see what happens, but I do feel that the Cardinals will make a move to address third base and Gyorko may be the odd man out. It wouldn’t fully surprise me if Gyorko is dealt this off-season for more than likely bullpen help. I don’t want it to happen, but it might.
3. Yairo Munoz – IF/OF Specialist
Time to get into the land of backups. Munoz was acquired during the Stephen Piscotty trade with Oakland and for the most part, Munoz delivered. He was a solid bat off the bench and played well while DeJong was on the DL. Where Munoz faulters is his defense. Call it jitters or whatever else you’d like, but Munoz struggled defensively. He played 6 different positions for the Cardinals this season, which is impressive, but between those 6 positions he had -11 DRS on the season. Down the stretch you could tell the season was taking a toll on the youngster who had multiple errors in the final week of play. His bat certainly warrants him being in the lineup every once in a while. Munoz hit .276 on the season with 8 HR and a .763 OPS. I feel that Munoz could benefit from finding a primary and secondary position and working on those positions this off-season. Not knowing where you are going to play every day can take a toll after a while.
4. Greg Garcia – IF Specialist
I have a feeling that Greg Garcia’s time in St. Louis will soon come to an end. He has played a good role for the Cardinals being able to play basically everywhere on the infield, but Garcia couldn’t put much together at the plate in 2018. He hit only .221 on the season with an OPS of just .613. His best position is arguably second base, but with Kolten Wong playing Gold Glove defense, he will get the majority of playing time moving forward, and with youngster Munoz hitting as well as he did in 2018, Garcia will be left out of the mix everywhere else on the infield. It’s an unfortunate aspect of the game, but thanks for what you have done Greg if this is indeed the end.
5. Patrick Wisdom – 3B
Wisdom began making a name for himself when he finally got the call-up for the Cardinals in 2018, but he is sitting in a crowded field. Wisdom is 27 years old and has been in the Cardinals system since 2012. The last couple seasons for Wisdom at AAA Memphis has shown some progression at the plate, but he needs more consistentcy to win the job at third. He showed good power in 2017 with 31 home runs, while hitting a career high .288 in 2018. Unfortunately for Wisdom, his career average in the minors is just .245 with average defense. For the Cardinals, Wisdom hit .260 and had an .882 OPS but only had a sample size of 50 ABs. I want to like Wisdom, but I want there to be more consistentcy from him moving forward.
You can arguably put Matt Carpenter in the mix as well for third base, but it would take a move regarding a top level first baseman for the Cardinals to move Carpenter back to third. He did receive playing time at third while they tried Jose Martinez at first, but they quickly realized that wouldn’t be the best move going forward. And while defensive metrics are kind to Carpenter at third, showing 6 DRS this season, the eye test shows some concern. However, I think the Cardinals will roll with Carpenter anywhere given his offensive production this past season where he hit a career best 36 home runs.
1. Manny Machado – SS/3B
I’ll list him as a third baseman, but he has made it clear that he wants to play shortstop. If he plays hard ball, the Cardinals can shift DeJong to third base. He is familiar with the position, but how quickly can he transition back to third? Machado is one of the best players in all of baseball. He brings a big bat to the lineup and has shown to be a good defender in his career. His defense was… “Meh” at shortstop this year, but he should improve in 2019. The Cardinals have the budget to offer Machado a huge deal. Multiple teams will be in on him, which will make things more difficult. Between Baltimore and Los Angeles this season he hit .297 with 37 home runs and 107 RBIs. His bat would benefit the Cardinals greatly in 2019 and beyond.
2. Josh Donaldson – 3B
I’ve said a lot involving the Cardinals and Josh Donaldson, but only because it makes sense. He is getting older, so in reality he won’t get more than a 2-3 year deal in my opinion. That is a perfect bridge to some talented prospects in the Cardinals organization. Plus, when healthy Donaldson is a stud. The Cardinals haven’t committed to Jedd Gyorko at third base full time. If the Cardinals sign Donaldson, Gyorko is still a great option to split time in the event of Donaldson getting hurt again. This deal probably sounded better 2-3 seasons ago, but in the event of St. Louis missing on a “superstar” caliber player, Donaldson could be a good backup plan.
1. Andrelton Simmons – SS – Los Angeles Angels
Now I have been beating this dead horse for a while now. According to some the Angels will not be looking to move him because they are trying to win. If that’s the case, Simmons should be in their future, but with their current pitching staff… Is it realistic to think they are going to be a contender before Simmons hits free agency in 2021? I don’t think so. They have Trout and Ohtani along with Simmons, but Pujols is fading fast, and as I mentioned their pitching staff is not going to compete in the AL. Simmons would be an upgrade defensively giving you arguably the best middle infield in baseball. He has gotten better offensively throughout his career as well. The Cardinals as a team suffered with too many strikeouts, but Simmons shows incredible plate discipline and hardly strikes out. He actually led the Majors with only 44 strikeouts on the season. I’m not saying it will be easy to obtain Simmons, but I imagine Dakota Hudson, Luke Weaver, and Edmundo Sosa gets the ball rolling for sure.
Another reason to go after Andrelton Simmon… Cardinals fans are tired of too many strikeouts Simmons led Major League Baseball with just 44 walks this season Never had more than 67 in a season It just makes sense @Cardinals #STLCards
2. Nicholas Castellanos – 3B – Detroit Tigers
I’ve seen Castellanos pop up a few times over the last couple seasons and I think it could be a good fit. He doesn’t do much for you defensively but he has a solid bat that can really benefit the Cardinals in 2019. He hit .298 with 23 homers last season and had a 4.7 oWAR. He will definitely bring the team value as a hitter, and in reality you could use Gyorko late in games as a defensive replacement. It doesn’t seem like a fluke either, as he has three straight season with an OPS over .800. I think they could make a solid offer to Detroit and get him. He is eligible for arbitration this upcoming season and is set to be a free agent in 2020. In a way I view him as I view Donaldson… Not my priority move, but a solid backup plan.
3. Nolan Arenado – 3B – Colorado Rockies
Listen, I understand Nolan Arenado is one of the best players in baseball… but he is really available? I personally don’t see it. It’s been reported that Arenado is tired of losing, and that is a good gripe to have. I can’t imagine there is a player who is content with losing. But the Rockies have put themselves in a position to actually win games. They have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons, so trading their best player would seem silly wouldn’t it? Now, if Arenado is available, it will cost you a fortune, but the potential payoff is intriguing. He is one of the best in the game on offense and defense. He has hit at least 37 home runs and 110 RBIs in his last 4 seasons with a batting average hovering around .300. I’d say that is pretty productive. He also has 109 DRS over his 6 year career, which is 2nd to only Andrelton Simmons (165) during that time. He is eligible for arbitration in 2019 and he will be a free agent in 2020. If he is indeed available you make the call, but you cannot be cheap for a player of his caliber.
If I had to guess, a lot of people are wondering why Mike Moustakas isn’t on my free agent watch list… Well… I think he is okay but I personally don’t see him as an upgrade. Moose put up a 2.5 WAR over 573 ABs. Jedd Gyorko was a 2.0 WAR in 351 ABs. Moustakas isn’t bad defensively, but leaves more to be desired, and if Gyorko was given a full season, I imagine his production would be pretty similar to Moustakas. This is just my opinion, and I do see the appeal, but personally I’m not sold on Moose. He also does have a mutual option with Milwaukee for 2019, and given how well Milwaukee has played this season, Moustakas could very well be with Milwaukee again next season. With that being said, there are multiple ways the Cardinals can look at this. They have internal options, trade potential, and some free agents that can fill a role on the left side of the infield. The question is which way will they fall? Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for Reading
Follow me on Twitter @AaronArchCity