UCB Preseason Roundtable Day 1

Baseball is back! Hope everyone survived the long Winter and like me are expecting great things from the Birds on the Bat. If you happen to be lucky enough to catch Spring Training games, the Cardinals open exhibition season against their roommates in just over an hour.

One other rite of Spring for us at the UCB happens to begin one of my favorite events. Our humble group of St. Louis fans rarely get together in person so we use the interwebs to debate any and all things related to the Redbirds.

This year is an even more special occasion given the significance of both 1967 as well as who the Cards open the campaign against. Yup, we all get to hear about the Cubs at least until May or maybe June. Then the attention will turn towards the All-Star break and on to the dog days so my wife gets to become a baseball widow very soon.

It was my turn to hit lead-off and opened the Roundtable with a spirited look at the 3rd base debate. Here was my question and enjoy the responses!

PH8: With Carpenter moving across the diamond, all eyes are on how the hot corner will be decided. It honestly doesn’t matter who wins the job by April 1st, because I want to know who has it by August 1st.

Who if you had a pick would be running out next to Diaz over the last two months of the season. If the player joins the Cardinals via trade, the deal has to make baseball sense no matter how far ahead in the standings St. Louis is (optimism rules).

Mark (RetroSimba):

Jhonny Peralta likely will be the starting third baseman in August and September. That was the plan all along when they first signed him: solidify shortstop for a couple of years, then move to third. The Cardinals will give first priority to Peralta to see that plan and investment play out. At workouts in Jupiter this week, Peralta has looked fit and focused. He seems motivated to finish his Cards career on an upswing and help his cause in attracting one last lucrative contract offer in free agency.
Diane (Women Who Love Cardinal Baseball)
This may be a bold prediction, but I think Jhonny Peralta will be injured once again and Jedd Gyorko will take over the hot corner.  I don’t see any players available for a trade unless the Cards give up some of their young pitching talent.  Another scenario would be if Matt Adams returns to form, Carpenter could then be moved back over to third.
Tom (CardinalsGM)
I believe it is Peralta’s for the most part but many, many times Matheny will be tempted to have as many lefties in the line-up as he can. On those occasions I see Carp moving back to third and Adams at first. Could be GGaria at third and Carpenter at first. I see Jhonny only about 100-110 games starting.
Easton (Redbird Daily)
As much as I would like to say it will be someone else, I believe Jhonny  Peralta will be the starting third baseman throughout the season. I am sure that he has come into spring training with a positive attitude, of improving and staying it better shape, and that should help him out quite a bit.
If Matt Adams continues to impress in spring training, after shaping up this offseason, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Cardinals start Adams at first and move Carpenter back to third. Then, Peralta could be packaged with a few prospects in a trade deal, even though the return wouldn’t be much.
Bill (I70 Baseball)
Let’s answer this one two ways: what I want to see and what we will see. It seems the consensus is what I assume we will see: Peralta will step up in his walk year and prove that he has the versatility to play the position. He provides the “stop gap” that the team is looking for going into the offseason, where they figure to be big players in free agency for the first time in a long time.
What I want is something a bit “Jocketty-esque”. I want to see the Cardinals identify the third baseman they will pursue in free agency this coming year (Mike Moustakas is real interesting) and make a deal at the deadline. Bring the player in, let him fall in love with the city, sign him long term. If Peralta/Gyorko are a stop gap fix anyway, you sacrifice very little to try and make that happen.
Daniel (C70 At The Bat)
I continue to hope/believe/daydream that the Cardinals, flush with a new TV contract, not burdened with any significant deals, and needing to revitalize the core, make a run at Manny Machado after the 2018 season.
If that actually is their plan, they can’t bring in anyone that’s a long-term option to play third.  Which probably means that Jhonny Peralta and Jedd Gyorko will see almost all the time at third this year, including down the stretch.  There’s nobody in the system that’s even close enough to replace them on a temporary basis and I can’t see John Mozeliak making a big deal.
That being said, if they aren’t going to make such a big splash, I like Bill’s idea of the McGwire/Holliday-like deal.
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
Wow, this is a tough one right off the bat, and the key there is August 1st not July 1st. In other words, after the trade deadline.
For me, it comes down to what the Cardinals have and what they’ll need. They have reliable on-base ability. With Fowler, Piscotty, Carpenter, Diaz, and potentially Wong, the Cardinals are going to be a team that gets on base a lot. However, their power potential ranges from questionable to mediocre and even unreliable. MAYBE Adams rebounds and provides power. MAYBE Peralta can stay healthy and contribute slightly better than average power. MAYBE Grichuk can finally be the Grichuk we all believe he can be.
But none of that is even “likely” – it’s just a good bet.
When it comes down to it, the Cardinals didn’t acquire the masher they needed over the offseason. Now, they’re left with a slew of 20 home run threats but no real bomber. Again, Grichuk has the power, but can he consistently make contact? I may believe he can, but I’ve learned not to bet on so many maybe’s.
And then there’s Peralta’s aging body at a new position.
I just have a hard time believing Peralta will stay healthy enough and productive enough to stick at third base when things get hairy around August and September. And I’m not sure the organization believes he will either. Think about it this way…
The Cardinals have committed to Carpenter at first base. They’ve committed to Diaz at shortstop. They’ve committed to Wong at second base. But they have specifically allowed Gyorko to float, the man who hit 30 home runs in part time duty last season. I believe they think Gyorko is going to be playing either second base or third base in August.
The problem is, by the time they get to that point, they are going to need power – reliable power – and the expectation of playing Gyorko (still somewhat of an unknown quantity in everyday duty) may not be enough to appease them…and that means trade acquisition.
So, here’s where I think the Cards could be on August 1st
Kolten Wong will finally blend well with an on-base team that allows him to contribute in a more balanced, less extreme role. In other words, he won’t be expected to be a top-tier OBP guy or a power-hitting second baseman or even a speedy/flashy kickstarter. He’ll be a little bit of all those things at a better than average level, and that will make him a well-balanced, productive player. He’ll stick at 2B. That opens up Gyorko for third.
Peralta will get injured. Or at least be achy enough that he won’t be producing. And I think that’s going to contribute to pressure to acquire a true power hitter in July. With the pieces on the board, I think the easiest piece to get with power is going to be a first baseman.
And that’s going to mean Carpenter at third base again.
I know the Cardinals have “committed” to Carpenter at 1B, but that commitment is only as good as their standings in August. A year ago, before the Cubs won, I would say the Cards would just let Gyorko play 3B and possibly pick up a replacement utility bench guy. Now, the stakes are higher. They can’t afford to take a gamble. They’ll trade for a sure thing – a “known quantity” – and it seems to be easier to find a first baseman on the market than it would be a third baseman.
So my answer is: Matt Carpenter…again…at third base.
For those worried about whether Mozeliak is willing to give up enough to make a trade, remember this: Sure, there’s the standard stuff (Cards need to identify a core player, need to respond to the Cubs last year, etc.), but one landscape changer behind the scenes is Alex Reyes. One of the roadblocks to putting together a deal last year and this offseason was clubs starting negotiations by demanding Reyes. That was, of course, a no-go that tended to stall negotiations early. But this year, Reyes’ surgery means he’s off the table. That could lead to more deals gaining enough traction and momentum to come together with other, more available prospects. Watch Alcantara’s progress in Springfield and possibly Memphis this year. He’s got the subtle media buzz and high end fastball that gets front offices talking, but he’s still raw enough and trying to harness enough control to be an enticing and moveable piece in a deal. And that prospect currency could mean the ability to grab a power hitter at first base and send Carpenter back across the diamond.
Bill,
Imagine KC trading Eric Hosmer to the Cardinals in that scenario…mmmmm….
They would have to get a haul to move him in state, but the World Series title has softened some of the Cardinal-hate among their fan base recently.
Jon (Redbird Dugout)
It will be interesting to see how Matheny uses the infield and how committed he truly is to keeping Carpenter at one position. I believe Carpenter is willing to play everywhere, but would really like to stay in one place and not be bouncing all over the infield on a nightly basis.
Adams and Gyorko will start the season on the bench. Both had intriguing seasons last year, but Gyorko’s is far more likely to be an outlier. I don’t think Gyorko will get anywhere near 30 home runs again. When it comes to Adams, I wish the Cardinals were committing to him at first base and using Carpenter at third this season. I think he’s got something to show, but I’m not sure that Adams will get enough of an opportunity to elbow his way into playing time except through injury.
The Cardinals are not going to make any trades for substantial improvements, so don’t hold your breath. They just don’t have the prospect firepower to do it, and what little they have is going to be needed over the next few years to ensure the Cardinals retain some form of relevance. Losing their picks to the Astros and being under an international signing penalty after blowing through the cap last year puts Mo in a box where the only real way to improve the team is free agency.
That said, I expect Peralta to remain relatively healthy and I expect him to have a good season with the bat. It would surprise me if he’s not still the regular third baseman on August 1st and throughout the season.
Unless the season just goes sideways in June, and then all bets are off.
Carly (KMOV)
As much as I would like to think that Mozeliak will make a big move at the trade deadline, we all know that it’s not likely to happen. If it does, then color me surprised.
With that being said, we have to look at those good ol’ internal options. Keep an eye on those minor league guys and just hope that they can stay consistent. Hope that they produce. Hope that they learn.
As far as our major leaguers go, I believe Carpenter will be back at third once August 1st hits. Peralta is a ticking injury time bomb right now – and he will most likely be hurt come August.
This is something that Mozeliak has to take into serious consideration. I asked him at the Warm-Up what his hopes were for Peralta. He said that his hopes where that he’s 100% and ready to perform. I’m sure most of us have those same hopes. Although, it is critical to take reality into consideration. Pick up a power-hitting third baseman that will be able to take the spot. If the Cardinals do this, then we don’t have to worry about moving Carpenter back over to third.
But keep an eye on Carpenter’s performance at first. Look at the details, see if he’s really performing to his full ability at first, and go from there. If he’s better off at third, then seek out a first baseman that will fill that roll at the trade deadline. I say this because I’m one of the people who think that Adams could potentially be traded.
I’m worried about Adams’ consistency and if he’s able to bounce back from last season. Sure, he lost a lot of weight and he’s in the best shape of his life (just like the rest of the players are……). Although, I believe it’s going to take a lot more than that.
Clearly this is a sensitive situation for the Cards right now. It’s going to be a very interesting season when it comes to seeing what Mozeliak does and how this team is managed.
Colin (Redbird Daily)
Who plays third base could depend on Matt Adams more than anything else. In the past, there have been stretches in which Adams has been very, very good. If the sleeker Adams can produce consistently, they’ll move Carpenter back to third. I don’t think Adams will hit at an All-Star level, but he doesn’t have to. If he’s better than Peralta and Gyorko, Carpenter should play third.
If it’s truly a binary choice between Gyorko and Peralta, my guess is they start the season with the best defender. After that, it will be decided by offensive need. I think Peralta is the best defender, and will hit well enough to hold onto the job. Gyorko will get enough at-bats around the infield to remain useful, but Peralta will be the every day third baseman on August 1st.
(Ed. Note – at this point we jump into more of the second part of the question and look at who may be brought in from outside the organization)
Josh (PH8)

Carly – I believe all of us will be surprised but maybe not in the way we expect. This question was worded in a way that left it open-ended come July. By the All-Star break, the pressure will be on the M&M’s (Mo and Matheny) to find a way back to October.

With that in mind, the Cards do look at options and find a willing team and a player familiar with the NL Central to hold down the clean-up spot. The follow-up question back to the group is would you only trade for Todd Frazier to keep the prospect haul lighter or go all-in for Jose Quintana as well?

Think of a package with Kelly, Bader, Alcantara, etc – does that move the needle enough? Frazier can thrive with so many on base and getting Quintana allows for other pitching pieces to be moved as well. What say you UCB?

Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)

I have an answer, but I don’t want to risk stepping on someone else’s question any more than my epicly long answer already did.  (Ed. Note – If we stole your question sorry but told Kevin to keep going!)
Daniel (C70 At The Bat)
As much as I’d love Quintana, the White Sox would be smart to wait and trade him after the season, if at all.  (I honestly don’t know why you trade a good, young, under contract pitcher, but that’s just me.) If the staff is struggling and that solves two problems, maybe Mo goes after it.  You’d probably have to add a couple of more names–Weaver, maybe, among others–to be in the ballpark of both guys, though.  Frazier, though, as a free agent at the end of ’17, would definitely be on the market and depending on his year and interest wouldn’t cost as much since he was a rental.
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
I just have to believe the only way Carson Kelly gets traded in any deal is if the Cardinals believe Yadi will be Yadi for the next five years…and I don’t see that happening. Kelly isn’t just valuable…he’s way to valuable to this specific organization to trade.
I like Frazier…but I have to believe a rental would not be the type of deal the Cards will want to go after considering the cost efficiency involved. Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I believe now is the time to strike on a big trade, while Reyes is off the board.
Zach (Redbird Daily)
I don’t like any of the incumbent options at third base. I think Peralta has a chance to bounce back, but his contact quality last year was basically average or worse. While an offseason to heal his thumb injury might help, advancing in age another year will not.
That said, there are positive signs that Peralta is aging well. As players age, you might expect to see them start to cheat in the box. The result is more whiffs and more swings at balls outside the zone, which results in a lower walk rate and higher strikeout rate.
His swinging strike (or whiff) rate of 8.3% was below his career average of 10.4%, and his O-Swing%, of 27.2% was within 0.2% of his career average. Consequently, his K% was 17.9%, just below his career average. His BB% of 6.4% was down from his career rate of 8.3%, and has dropped every year since 2014. Additionally, while his O-Swing% was fine last year, it had been trending the wrong direction over the previous three seasons.
I’m not a fan of Gyorko as an everyday player. I don’t think he’s much more than an average hitter (his low OBP drags down his wRC+ despite his power), and I think he loses value if he isn’t used as a utility backup at potentially every infield spot. He’s an OK option, but he’s not the answer.
I’m with C70 in thinking the Cardinals will pursue Manny Machado (or Josh Donaldson), and covered how they can afford that move here. So, I think if they are in contention, they’ll look to the trade market for a guy under control through 2018.
I see Jean Segura of the Diamondbacks as an option, though he would move Aledmys Diaz to third base. That probably wouldn’t be a bad thing. Segura had a career offensive season in 2016. He would add speed and was an average defender at shortstop for the Brewers from 2013-15. If Diaz throwing arm holds up, he’d be a better third baseman than Peralta or Gyorko. I don’t think Diaz sticks at shortstop long term (I think he eventually ends up at 2B), especially if Delvin Perez develops, so this would just be a step in that direction.
Brian Dozier is also an option. I don’t see him replicating his 2016 power success – he went nuts in the second half, but in the first half he was the same hitter he’s always been. That’s not a knock: Dozier has been a pretty good hitter for a while. I think his performance slides a little bit, the Twins look to sell more aggressively, and the Cardinals are an obvious fit.
My prediction? Dozier. Segura would require too much creativity from Matheny, and pushing Diaz to a new position midseason might be a mistake.
(Ed. Note: Segura was traded to the Mariners this off season but is a guy who checks plenty of boxes for STL)
Josh (PH8)
We all realize how valuable it is to have Yadi’s eventual replacement in place, but I am curious the extension details once they are are released. Balancing the present and future is mighty difficult with Molina almost a 1st ballot HOF, especially with another 3-4 years.If that is the case, you risk prospect fatigue with Kelly and also have him on the 40-man wasting option years. Good problem to have, sure but best way to improve 3B for the future – get the best return for Bader, Kelly, and company now.
Adam (Redbird Daily)
The fan in me, like most of you, wants to see a trade to bring in someone like Dozier. The realist in me, however, say it will be Jhonny Peralta.
When looking at Peralta’s 2016 the most obvious thing that stands out is the thumb injury. I hear that mentioned often when talking about it but I do think it’s still being overlooked a bit. Essentially every example of a player I can find that had a ligament injury to the thumb struggled upon their return from the disabled list.
Maybe he is just aging poorly. Maybe he doesn’t have the ability to handle third base anymore. Both are reasonable concerns. But until we see either of those actually being the case I think we need to believe that a return to the 2015 version of Peralta is the most likely scenario.
If he fails the you could do a lot worse than Jedd Gyorko as his replacement.
I don’t believe Carpenter moving back to third will be a realistic option unless they trade for a first baseman which I don’t see happening. I’ve never believed that Matt Adams can be a consistent hitter and him getting in shape won’t change my mind on that. Until he can lay off the 55 foot breaking ball I will always have that mindset about him.
Josey (Viva El Birdos)
As much as I’d love to say Evan Longoria or Nolan Arenado, I’ll more reasonably state that Jhonny Peralta will be at third base come August.

I feel like Matt Adams will take on his 2013-type role, with a little more pinch-hitting and insertion in later innings. Assuming Kolten Wong is given his chances (and lives up to them), he’ll play second, to the right of Matt Carpenter at first base & left of Aledmys Diaz at shortstop.

Despite his unorthodoxly glorious 30 homers last year as he adopted a starting role down the stretch, I still feel Jedd Gyorko is better suited for more of a utility role. On top of that, Greg Garcia is the only other infield option.

Keep in mind Peralta’s a free agent at the end of the year. For a guy who, though he likely won’t re-sign, has done nothing but help this team, the least the Cardinals could do as a, say, parting gift, is allow Peralta to play daily to establish that he can still handle a full-time role. And as long as injuries remain at a minimum and if people can live up to their expectations (a big ‘if’, I’m aware) Peralta’s your guy at third base on April 2nd and August 1st.

Doug (Baseball Geek in Galveston)

I’m an off the wall guy, so I have an answer that makes no sense (that’s what makes baseball fun at times!) 😉

Keep Peralta where he is for now, but give Harrison Bader some reps at 3rd in AAA.
Grichuk, if he hits, is our LF (if he doesn’t, toss this answer out the window) we just spent a ton on Fowler for a while, and Piscotty is our RF for years to come, so where does that leave Bader? I think he has the talent to be more than a 4th OF, and at the very least, this’d increase his versatility.
Laura and Holly (STL CardGals)
I’m also somewhat concerned that Peralta will land on the DL again at some point this season. Unfortunately, even if these guys keep themselves in pristine condition through diet/training, etc., their age will eventually catch up with them, spawning increasing injury towards the end of their careers (i.e. Matt Holliday, 2016). If that does happen to Jhonny, I agree that placing Carpenter back at 3rd and Adams at 1st (in his case, the aggressive diet might be very effective, considering it’s tagged with his youth) makes the most sense to me.
And last but never least…
Kevin (STL Cards ‘N Stuff)
Just a side note: I wouldn’t put TOO much stock in Adams’ new physique. He comes into Winter Warm-Up every year to gasps and surprise at how much weight he’s lost. Seems to gain it back during the season.
Not saying he won’t keep it off this year, or that this weight loss is more dramatic than previous years, but just saying that he’s aggressively changed his body type multiple times before over the offseason.
Over 4200 words later this way by far the most fun Roundtable yet and just goes to show how much we have put 2016 in our rear view!

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