Some will point to his BABIP of .353 and say he’s going to regress. I say Matt Carpenter is just getting started. I’m sure Keith Law doesn’t say the same thing about Dustin Pedroia, or worry about his BABIP. Here’s a link to Law on Carpenter. Obviously, when people like Law talk about Carpenter you can tell they don’t watch him play on an everyday basis. This is the problem I have with analysts who only look at the stats and don’t watch enough of the games actually being played. Not only is Carpenter doing great by the numbers, he just doesn’t look overmatched….ever. He consistently makes hard contact and works the count in his favor with plate discipline. Even when he makes outs, he generally makes hard contact and puts the ball in play.
Carpenter is a great leadoff hitter for the Cards, but he would be an even better two-hole hitter if the Cards had some speed at the top of the lineup. That 4.06 P/PA to go along with his great numbers across the board would take him from the best leadoff hitter in the game to the best two-hole hitter in the game.
Because of the potential to upgrade over Jon Jay, I think that’s what GM John Mozeliak will target at the trade deadline if any move is made at all. The reason I would think the upgrade would occur with Jay over Pete Kozma is based a couple of reasons. One, Kozma plays great defense. You can argue that point if you want, but any defensive metric you look at has Kozma in the top 5 or 6 among all MLB shortstops. The eye test should confirm that as well. Another great thing about Kozma is he doesn’t let his offensive struggles carry out to the field. Next, if the Cards do decide to try someone else at shortstop, I think they’ll go with Ryan Jackson, exhausting all in-house options first.
I don’t normally like to speculate about trades, but it’s that time of the season and the Cards have the trade options because of the play of Carpenter. The Cards will have a decision to make in 2014 with Kolten Wong because of Carpenter unless they use him as a trade chip now. Personally, I feel the Cards may end up keeping Wong as well as Freese, at least until 2015. Having Wong playing a role in 2014 similar to what Matt Adams is doing this year makes a lot of sense and keeps some depth in case of an injury. He wouldn’t be the power bat, but he’d be a threat off the bench and as a spot starter. I simply don’t think the Cards will trade Wong.
My focus on writing this is only because of the play of Carpenter. I’m not saying the Cards should move him from the leadoff spot. What I am saying is that if the Cards make a trade, putting a legitimate base stealing threat at the top of lineup ahead of Carpenter could change this offense from a great one to one that’s head and shoulders above all others. You have to wonder how many more opportunities a player that’s a threat on the bases would get to steal bases hitting ahead of Carpenter as well as how many more good pitches that player would get to hit.
If Mo decides to make a trade, I think he’ll have to be blown away by an offer. Any other organization is going to want Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras or Wong. Tyler Lyons name will probably come up as well. I still think Lyons is going to be more than a serviceable 4th or 5th starter. The problem with trying to upgrade CF is that Carlos Gomez is the only available CF’er that plays for a team that is out of the race and that’s worth trading young talent for. Lorenzo Cain would be an upgrade on defense, but he doesn’t offer the bat or the speed to make hitting in front of Carpenter a lineup change worth making. There are many players that would offer an upgrade on defense in CF, but at what cost?
If the Cards did decide to try and make a change at shortstop, the only option I really see is Everth Cabrera. Cabrera plays a plus defense and gives you that speed on the bases.
The Cards could obviously make a trade for either a SS or CF’er and not worry about them being a prototypical leadoff hitter and stick them towards the bottom of the order. The definition of that has changed over the years anyway as speed has become less of a priority around the league. Carpenter is doing a great job of leading off for the Cards and it’s hard to argue against him being the best leadoff hitter in the game. If Mo does decide the pull the trigger on a deal though, it’s exciting to think of a player that can hit in front of Carpenter and utilize his skills a little bit more. However, with a 2nd WC being in play now, fewer teams are going to be sellers at the trade deadline.
It seems most Cards fans have a strong opinion about whether it should be Jay or Kozma that a move is made for to replace. I would like to upgrade for Jay. Kozma has a steady glove at shortstop. Jay doesn’t cover enough ground, has the weakest arm among all CF’ers in MLB and is lost at the plate. It’s not just that he’s lost, it’s the weak contact on balls in play. Rolling over on a pitch to 2B for an out happens way too often. If the Cards come down to a game 5 or 7 and a runner needs to be thrown out at home on a ball hit to Jay, the Cards will lose if that’s the winning run. The same could not be said if Shane Robinson were in CF.
Mo is in a good position. The Cards farm system is still deep, and even though there is room for improvement, this team is good enough to win it all. Unless the Cards are blown away with a good offer, I’m not expecting an impact trade. If a player were available to hit in front of Carpenter and utilize his skills better that played SS or CF though, I’d like to see it happen if the price were right. Because of how great Carpenter has been leading off, Mo can look to upgrade the Cards in CF on offense or defense as well as on offense at SS without worrying about a leadoff hitter, but adding someone who can steal bases ahead of Carpenter would be fun to watch.