The St. Louis Cardinals are looking to improve their defense and possibly rearrange the look of the lineup for the coming season this winter. The first move the Cardinals have made, is to name Matt Carpenter the starting first baseman.
The St. Louis Cardinals have relied on Matt Carpenter to be a cornerstone of their offense and their defense. Manager Mike Matheny recently let Carpenter know that the All-Star infielder will be expected to open the 2017 season as the everyday first baseman.
Carpenter was a bit of a utility player in 2016 and appeared at third base, second base, and first base, which is now his new home. It will be his third different starting position in the past four years. General manager John Mozeliak confirmed the move to first base Tuesday during the general manager meetings. He stated that it simplified the infield and their goals this offseason.
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Mozeliak also noted that the constant movement of fielders like Carpenter could have been a cause for the team’s defensive issues.
“There were a lot of moving parts” in the 2016 infield, Mozeliak said. “It was a little unsettling. It didn’t quite work. Going into spring training in 2017 with a more stable look. … I think players want to have an idea of what they need to be working on this offseason. He’s someone that we want to have a clear picture of where we thought he’d play.”
This decision by the St. Louis Cardinals to move Carpenter to first base reveals the direction John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny intend to go. Matt Adams, a first baseman, is now has a role on the bench and is likely a part of many trade discussions. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, there has been a sense outside the organization that Adams could find more playing time elsewhere, if the Cards want to move him.
Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko look to share playing time at third base while also providing relief around the infield. Mozeliak suggested that Peralta can still play shortstop and could give starter Aledmys Diaz some rest. Gyorko, who led the team in home runs in 2016, can serve as a right-handed platoon partner to Kolten Wong. However, Mozeliak has stated repeatedly that he believes Kolten Wong is the everyday second baseman.
“I think a couple of things (will be) stabilizing,” Mozeliak said. “Carp at first. Kolten Wong – an everyday opportunity at second. And then allowing Diaz (to grow) will dramatically improve what we saw last year. … I’d like to give Kolten Wong that opportunity. He has a chance to be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. I think a lot of times what bogged him down are just the offensive struggles. I still think he could be an exciting bat, an exciting player, an everyday player.”
Carpenter has been an All-Star at second base (2013) and at third base (2014). In 2017, the Cardinals are now asking him to be an All-Star caliber first baseman. The Cardinals have never really allowed Carp to get comfortable in a position for a long period of time but with the commitment to him at first, he gets that chance.
“Moving Carpenter to first (base) and allowing him to have that comfort level there I think is important,” Mozeliak said. “We’re going to welcome that.”
However, Adams doesn’t seem to have a prominent role and that could lead to a different offensive role for Carpenter. A trade could happen and Carpenter’s role as lead-off hitter may be modified. With his previous production at the No. 1 spot, many inside the organization believe the team would be better off with him as a No. 2 or No. 3 guy. Based on the upcoming moves this winter by Mozeliak, his lineup position could become quite clear.
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Whatever else happens this offseason, Matt Carpenter knows his position and his job. This also sheds light on the infield situation for the forseeable future. Wong is given another chance, Diaz will build off of a great 2016 campaign, and Peralta and Gyorko will mainly share 3rd base.