Oscar Taveras made his major league debut on Saturday, belting a solo home run that ended up being one of only two runs that Cardinals could muster against the Giants. Everyone seems to be excited about Taveras’s ability to impact this team right now, but I wonder exactly how thrilled Cards GM John Mozeliak is to see Taveras in a big league uniform. With Taveras’s arrival comes questions, questions that Mo can no longer put aside. Taveras is obviously ready to play Major League baseball, and he’s too good a talent to sit on the bench, meaning that the Cards now have five players (Taveras, Allen Craig, Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk, and Peter Bourjos) to shuffle between two spots, right field and center field. Who gets the playing time?
Allen Craig’s struggles in 2014 have been well documented; he’s batting only .252 with 6 home runs and 30 RBI’s, but Craig’s dominance in ’12 and ’13 seems to have escaped everyone’s memory. Simply put, he was the most productive hitter in the Cardinals lineup and one of the best in the league. Things haven’t been going as smoothly in 2014, but Craig had a great May, batting over .300 and retaking the RBI lead on the team. Craig may not hit for the same power that he showed earlier in his career, but there is no reason to believe that Craig won’t hit for a very high average and continue to drive in runs like he did last year, when he very well could have been NL MVP were it not for an ankle injury.
Jon Jay entered 2014 second on the depth chart in center field. He had a difficult year in ’13, batting “only” .276 with 7 homers. Offensively he was average, defensively he was not. Posting a -7.3 Ultimate Zone rating, Jay frequently misplayed routine balls and saw his outfield range cut considerably. Bourjos was brought in during the offseason expected to be the starting center fielder, but Jay has been the hot hand most of the year, batting .281 compared to Bourjos’s .202. Ultimately, I believe that Jay will be traded, but I wonder if he is not the best center fielder on the team.
Bottom line: Taveras must play. He’s ready to play, and he’s too good to be in Memphis. A move must be made. Given the Cardinals’s historical conservatism, Jay will most likely be traded and the other 4 guys (Bourjos, Grichuk, Taveras, and Craig) will continue to shuffle between right and center, with Taveras and Grichuk being shuttled back and forth from Memphis a half a dozen times. That will most likely happen, but I believe the best option would be to deal Matt Adams, the big, lumbering first baseman. A trade involving Adams would open up an outfield spot, as Craig could slide to first. Adams would likely get a good haul in return: He’s only 25 and is under team control through 2018. His numbers look good on the surface, but Adams has only a .339 OBP, walking only at a 2.5% clip, while he has also disappointed power-wise; he’s knocked half as many home runs as Craig and driven in half as many runs, despite hitting .325.
Overall, this is a great problem to have and one that everyone would love to have, but let me just say that I’m glad that I’m not Mo.