While the Cardinals’ compilation of outfield talent is enviable, it nonetheless presents real difficulties to the team’s front office, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes in a piece that is well worth a full read. Indeed, that is precisely how GM John Mozeliak described things. “When you look at depth in baseball, it’s a good problem to have,” he said. “But I think we’re starting to get to the point where it might become a problem. So even though it’s a nice thing to have true depth in your system, at some point you’ve got to be able to play the depth.”
The club’s big league outfielders are off to a somewhat underwhelming start, combining for just a 95 wRC+. A group of four primary options – Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjos, and Jon Jay – is responsible for most of that line. Meanwhile, a trio of well-regarded younger options has gathered at Triple-A, with top prospects Oscar Taveras and Stephen Piscotty joined by offseason trade acquisition Randal Grichuk (whose big numbers in his first Triple-A campaign make the Bourjos and Grichuk for David Freese and Fernando Salas deal look even better for St. Louis.)
While adding one of those names to the MLB outfield mix is surely tempting, Miklasz explains that the scenarios for doing so all come with complications. “You look at how we’re constituted at the major league level,” Mozeliak said, “and it’s difficult trying to find major league at-bats for Taveras, Grichuk, and, not too far down the road, Piscotty.” (Grichuk was actually brought back up today for his second run with the big club, though that move likely relates to the team’s need for a DH for a lengthy run of road match-ups against American League clubs.)
Service time is also an issue that the club will weigh in the balance. As Mozeliak explains, “you’re not going to start somebody’s [service] clock and then have them sit.” All three outfield prospects entered the year without MLB service to their credit, and only Grichuk has begun a tally thus far. It is worth bearing in mind also that all four of the team’s regular big league outfielders are under contract (Holliday, Craig) or control through arbitration (Bourjos, Jay) through at least 2016.
Looking ahead to the summer, more decisive action will likely prove necessary, says Miklasz. The Cards’ GM certainly left the impression that a trade deadline move could be explored, using interesting terms to describe his thinking. “[W]e are going to have to look at what our arbitrage possibilities are with this,” said Mozeliak. “And we will have to explore what that looks like between now and the end of July.” As Miklasz explains, a bold maneuver would not be surprising, though what form it might take — dealing away a prospect, a veteran, or even first baseman Matt Adams (while shifting Craig back to the infield) — is still anybody’s guess.