posted on June 10, 2013 14:13
With the metronome that is the St. Louis Cardinals winning so methodically this season it’s tempting to look down the road and wonder about the future. The success of the big club coupled with the glut of talent in the minor league system has many people thinking dynasty. But with so many cost effective pieces waiting in the wings that likely means some personnel at the MLB level will have to change.
So, what are the Cards going to do at the hot corner after this season?
It may seem like blasphemy to even suggest that the club would go with any other option than St. Louis’ favorite son, David Freese. But it actually makes more sense to move forward without him. Don’t get me wrong, I love David Freese and his World Series heroics just as much as the next guy, but there are likely more cost effective and productive options at third after this season.
Yes, Freese is in the midst of an impressive 19-game hitting streak – where he’s hit .375 with 11 R, 5 2B, 3 HR and 16 RBI – and he’s coming off a career best season in 2012, but… yes here come the “buts”… He’s 30 years old, has only managed to stay healthy enough for a 500 at-bat season once in his career and he is arbitration eligible this offseason.
Age and injury concerns usually translate to decline, and money… well, money is money. And the Cards are notoriously thrifty with theirs. Freese is currently getting paid $3.15 million this season and when arbitration eligible next season he is sure to get a significant raise. Memories of his Game 6 theatrics will likely garner him $5 million alone. So, what the Cards need to do is shoot him a low-ball offer – which he will reject – and then they will receive a compensatory draft pick while Freese moves on to tend the hot corner with another club.
Enter Matt Carpenter. The immensely talented and versatile infielder can make the move back to third (his natural position) and the Cards can bring up highly touted prospect Kolten Wong to man second base. Wong will make the standard rookie wage and Carp, who makes just over $500,000 this season, will likely just receive a very modest raise from his currently salary. He’s also not arbitration eligible until 2015.
And then there’s the subject of Carpenter’s play. Not only is he better than Freese right now, he’s one of the better players in the National League. Currently hitting .332 with a .412 OBP and .894 OPS makes his one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters in the game. [Rickey Henderson knows what I’m talking about.] Adding that kind of pop (5 HR and a league leading 19 doubles) and OBP at the top of the lineup has made Matheny look like a genius. Oh, and no disrespect to Freese’s 19-game hitting streak, but Carpenter is right on his tail with an 18-gamer of his own.
It’s sad to think that Freese would play anywhere but St. Louis for the rest of his career, but it honestly makes sense, both fiscally and offensively, to run with Carpenter in his stead. The only scenario I can think of where Freese would stick around is if Wong gets injured or isn’t ready and Carpenter remains at second for one more year. Freese would get the arbitration bump and tend to third base for the Cardinals 2014. That seems unlikely though and would just be a quick one-year fix if it did indeed come to fruition.
Food for thought though, Kolten Wong is currently hitting .321 with an .832 OPS, 4 HR, 21 XBH and nine stolen bases in Triple-A. He’s 22, he’s virtually free and he’s ready.
I have countless amount of love and respect for Davis Freese, but it appears it’s about time to turn the page. The writing is all over the wall.