Longtime Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit free agency at the end of the season when the team made the easy decision to decline their $18.5MM option on his services for 2022. The three-time All-Star and former Silver Slugger Award winner had fallen on hard times over the past few seasons. After a .257/.374/.523 showing that earned him down-ballot MVP support in 2018, Carpenter has hit only .203/.325/.346 over 910 plate appearances in the last three years.
Having recently turned 36 years old and reached the end of his contract, Carpenter could’ve thought about stepping away from the game. But he’s maintained that he has no plans to retire, and he recently detailed a series of changes he’s made to his offseason routine in a chat with Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. Carpenter connected with Reds star first baseman Joey Votto, who enjoyed an excellent 2021 season at age-37 after a pair of relatively down years. The lefty-hitting Carpenter praised Votto’s straightforwardness and candidly told Rosenthal “If he would have told me, ‘I think you’ve peaked. I think this is it,’ honestly, I probably would have retired. But he said, ‘I think you do have a lot left. I think you’ve kind of lost your way a little bit.’”
Carpenter suggested he’s embraced some different methods of training, increasing the intensity of his batting practice sessions and pairing with bat manufacturer Marucci to take a data-driven approach to his choice of bat. Carpenter also worked with private hitting instructor Craig Wallenbrock and former teammate Matt Holliday — now an assistant coach at Oklahoma State University — in an effort to rediscover his hitting mechanics. Given his age and recent struggles, Carpenter will have to settle for a minor league or low-base MLB deal whenever transactions again begin, but he tells Rosenthal he’s “more confident about where I’m at and where my swing is than I have been in years, maybe ever.” The piece is worth a read in full for those interested in Carpenter’s process and the mentality both he and Votto have taken in their pursuit of remaining productive as they get into their mid-late 30’s.
Some more odds and ends from around the game:
- As the amount of data available to and used by teams has exploded in recent years, managers have found themselves with different complexities than they’d faced in the past. Fabian Ardaya, Cody Stavenhagen and Will Sammon of the Athletic recently examined the job description facing modern skippers, who are often tasked with weighing countervailing opinions among front office analysts, players and assistant coaches. Giants manager Gabe Kapler — who has had plenty of success in San Francisco but had been fired after two seasons (2018-19) leading the Phillies — tells the Athletic scribes he feels he wasn’t always perceptive enough of the flow of the game early in his career. “In 2018, I came in with a game plan and tried to fit the game into that game plan at times,” Kapler said. “And I think more and more I’m just sort of watching and experiencing the game in real-time, being present in real-time and noting more things about what’s happening in the dugout, what’s happening with our coaching staff, things like facial expressions with our players and body language on the field.” Ardaya, Stavenhagen and Sammon also chat with Angels skipper Joe Maddon, new Mets manager Buck Showalter, and various front office personnel about the challenges inherent to managing as part of a broader look at the position.
- The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association announced yesterday that Jim Thome has been hired as their next president. He takes over for fellow Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, who had worked in that role since 1989. The MLBPAA, a nonprofit organization of over 8,600 current and former big leaguers, has a stated goal of “(promoting) the game of baseball, (raising) money for charity, (inspiring) and (educating) youth through positive sport images and (protecting) the dignity of the game.” “With what Brooks has done with his honesty, integrity, and leadership skills for the MLBPAA, I am very fortunate that I will be able to lean on him as well and ask him questions,” Thome said as part of the press release announcing the news. “To be the president is a great honor and it’s very humbling.“