Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson will undergo surgery on his injured left ankle, skipper Oli Marmol told reporters (including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The procedure comes with a recovery time between two and three months. If all goes as anticipated, he should be ready for Spring Training.
It’s an expected development. Carlson has been considering a surgical procedure at least dating back to the middle of August, when he landed on the injured list for the second time. He initially hurt his ankle in May, suffering a sprain that took him out of action for a month. He has also been dealing with bone spurs, Goold notes. Both issues will be addressed when he goes under the knife.
Carlson had a middling age-24 season. He tallied 255 plate appearances, hitting .219/.318/.333 with only five home runs. It was his worst offensive output since an abbreviated rookie showing back in 2020. While he has never broken through as the impact hitter some expected when he was a top prospect, Carlson posted a slightly above-average .253/.331/.412 slash in over 1100 trips to the dish from 2021-22.
He paired those decent offensive numbers with strong ratings for his glove in center field. Just over a year ago, Carlson still seemed to be a franchise building block. He was jumped by Lars Nootbaar late last summer, while the Cards turned to Jordan Walker and Tyler O’Neill as their primary corner outfield tandem. That pushed Carlson into fourth outfield duty even when healthy.
As a result, opposing teams inquired about his availability at the trade deadline. No deal came together and Carlson ended up going back on the IL a couple weeks thereafter. The ankle surgery complicates his status headed into the winter, but he’ll surely be on the radar of clubs seeking outfield help. Carlson is headed into his first year of arbitration eligibility. He’ll go through that process three times and won’t qualify for free agency until after the 2026 campaign.
Even if he just recaptures his 2021-22 form, he’d profile as a decent everyday center fielder. There are presumably some clubs that feel he can yet reach a higher ceiling in his mid-20s based on his prospect potential. While Carlson’s trade appeal is probably at its lowest point since he reached the major leagues, the St. Louis front office will still receive a number of calls.
The Cardinals mostly dealt away short-term players at the most recent deadline. They didn’t make any notable subtractions from their collection of controllable position players. Carlson again figures to be one of their likeliest trade candidates as they look for ways to add stability to the rotation in hopes of putting this disappointing season behind them.