The Cardinals have optioned outfielder Harrison Bader, per the MLB.com transactions page (h/t Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Twitter links). Lane Thomas will come up to take over for the struggling 25-year-old, per the Dispatch’s Rick Hummel.
This is a disappointing moment for Bader, who turned in a strong 2018 effort but has fallen off quite a bit this year. Through 260 trips to the plate this season, he’s slashing a meager .195/.309/.339 with six home runs. Bader has actually made more hard contact than he did last year and is identified by Statcast numbers as a positive regression candidate. On the other hand, those figures also suggest his 2018 output was due in some part to good fortune on batted balls.
There’s still long-term value here if the Cards — or another team — believe that Bader can figure things out at the plate. He has boosted his walk rate to 11.2%, helping to offset a lofty 28.1% strikeout rate, but there’s work to be done. Importantly, defensive metrics still love Bader’s glovework. He’s curiously grading poorly on the bases despite maintaining excellent speed, though perhaps that’s just a blip.
Notably, by optioning Bader today, the Cards will keep him shy of reaching a full year of MLB service. He’s sitting at 1.161 years at present, meaning he’s eleven days shy of passing a new threshold.
Thomas had previously popped up in trade rumors. Instead, he’ll be installed — at least temporarily — as a piece of the MLB outfield mix for a club that has ever intention of making a run at the NL Central title. Thomas is capable of lining up at all three outfield spots, making him a flexible piece for the Cards.
The 23-year-old Thomas debuted earlier this season but only received a brief run in a reserve role. He has spent the bulk of the season at Triple-A, where he’s again turning in solid results at the plate. Through 304 plate appearances, the right-handed hitter carries a .268/.352/.460 slash with ten long balls.