Cardinals trade Matt Adams to Braves for prospect

Everyone knew Stephen Piscotty was going to be activated on Saturday in time for the game, after all, he was in the lineup and batting second. What was unknown was what the corresponding roster move was going to be. Would they send out their extra pitcher or make room some other way. Some other way was the answer as the Cardinals announced that they have traded 1B Matt Adams and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league infielder Juan Yepez.

Adams, 28, is hitting .292/.340/.396 with 1 home run this season over 31 games. The former 23rd round pick hit .271/.315/.453 with 56 home runs in 486 career games in Cardinal red.

He will join former teammate Jaime Garcia with the Braves, a team that became interested in adding a first baseman after learning that they would be without Freddie Freeman for three months after he broke his left wrist.

Since the Cardinals committed to Matt Carpenter at first base this winter, it didn’t really make much sense for the organization to bring Adams back for 2017, except in the hopes of trading him. The team even tried him in left field for a bit early in the season, but that didn’t pan out as hoped. There was nowhere in St. Louis for him to carve out an opportunity.

He will get that opportunity in Atlanta, where he will get the chance to play regularly over the next three months until Freeman returns. Freeman is a player I’ve often compared Adams to. Early in his career, Freeman struggled against left handed pitching as well, but the Braves kept playing him and after a couple seasons he adapted and has become one of the league’s best and most consistent hitters.

Adams never got that opportunity to play through those struggles and adapt in St. Louis, though he showed a hint of being able to hit left handed pitching last season, as he hit .283/.300/.522 off them.

The trouble for the Cardinals that I see with this deal is the loss of a power bat off the bench. This is likely a case of an opportunity coming up to trade Adams somewhere where he would get the chance to play that he wouldn’t have had in St. Louis. It’s not the first time that the organization has “done right” by a player in Adams’ shoes. But I can’t shake the feeling that they just chose Jhonny Peralta over Adams. And I don’t think that’s the right decision.

As far as the Cardinals’ return, Yepez, 19, was signed by the Braves out of Venezuela in 2014 for a little over a $1 million signing bonus. In 121 career minor league games, he has hit .281/.355/.407 with 6 home runs in the Braves organization. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds he is still considered a very raw prospect.

In 2015, after hitting .299/.364/.458 as a 17 year old in rookie leagues, Yepez was considered to possibly be one of the highest ceiling bats in the Braves’ organization. The scouting reports cite quick hands and great contact skills. There are questions as to his plate approach, but he is still young. He walked just 7.6% of the time compared to a 23.0% strikeout rate.

His defense is also a question. Originally signed as a third baseman, scouts have hinted at a move to first base, where he has played the majority of his minor league games, since he was signed. The Braves moved him back to third base this season.

In discussing Yepez, Mozeliak termed him as a “lottery ticket” type prospect. He was a young player that was thought highly of and has stalled a bit recently. The Cardinals are expected to assign him to Peoria.

Column: Who stands to gain from regulars playing in the World Baseball Classic?

The World Baseball Classic kicked off on Monday morning and Seung-hwan Oh‘s Team Korea took on Team Israel. The Cardinals have five players who are expected to be on their Opening Day 25 man roster who are taking part in the series. Yadier Molina (Puerto Rico), Matt Carpenter (USA), Carlos Martinez (Dominican Republic), Brett Cecil (USA), and the aforementioned Oh (Korea) will be taking part, though Carpenter’s recent injury will likely keep him out and bring him back to the Cardinals.

While much of the focus is on those guys being out of camp, it does provide an opportunity for the players left behind to put themselves on the map with extra playing time. So as part of our Preseason UCB Roundtable, I posed the question to see who the bloggers throught was in the best position to take advantage of that extra playing time, whether that is to seal the deal on a role with the big league club or move themselves up the organizational depth chart or put themselves in line for a mid-season promotion.

Carson Kelly. It was a pretty unanimous view that Carson Kelly will benefit the most from Molina being out of camp and playing with Team Puerto Rico. He likely won’t be earning a spot on the big league roster this season, but Molina’s absence, along with that of Alberto Rosario (playing for the Dominican Republic), gives Kelly and Eric Fryer an opportunity to play more often and, for both, become more familiar with the big league pitchers.

“I’d say Carson Kelley, not to try to earn a spot, but just to give confidence that if Molina goes down this season, he can step up and take over the everyday job,” said CardsConclave‘s Daniel Shoptaw. “It’s also a situation where he can strengthen the Cardinals’ position in their discussions with Molina over an extension.”

Kelly is the catalyst of one of the Cardinals’ most difficult decisions in a long time: whether to extend Yadier Molina. A good spring followed up with another good year in Memphis would go along way towards fueling speculation around what the Cardinals intend to do as the year goes forward.

Matt Adams & Jose Martinez. The next most common answer was Matt Adams and Jose Martinez. With Carpenter’s injury, he has withdrawn from the WBC, but he is expected to not play this coming week and will likely take it slow getting back into game action. That still creates an opportunity.

Martinez has played a team high 34 innings at first base this spring, but is most likely battling for the fourth outfield spot with Tommy Pham. Martinez, the 2015 PCL Batting Champ while playing in the Royals’ farm system, is swinging the bat really well. He hit .438 in 12 games after being called up last September and picked up where he left off this spring, going 7-for-18 with 3 home runs over 8 games. There’s a lot of baseball yet to play this March, but he has certainly put the team on notice that he intends to go to St. Louis to open up the season.

Adams on the other hand is in an opposite situation. While still likely a lock for the big league roster thanks to his contract (though worth noting the Cardinals could cut him up to 15 days before the season starts and only pay him the minimum as the Mets did last year with Ruben Tejada), he is coming to camp with a much leaner body and a retooled swing. He started slow, and is just 2-for-17 with a home run this spring. But he will stand to get more playing time as well. And for Adams and his ability to establish a role on this club, getting game at bats with his new swing is important.

The bullpen. Behind Kelly there wasn’t much consensus, but there was a common theme when it came to the pitchers. With Cecil and Oh not in camp there are a number of guys who will likely get those looks, from Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich to Ryan Sherriff and Jordan Schafer.

I’ll be writing about it later, but that battle for the final bullpen spot is going to be interesting to watch as we start getting to the end of camp. Guys like Tuivailala, Socolovich, and Shafer stand to figure into that battle in some fashion.

“I think Sam Tuivailala and Miguel Socolovich should get more looks without Cecil and Oh, which will allow them to make a case for the last bullpen spot,” said Zach Gifford of Redbird Rants and Redbird Daily.

Martinez being out also gives Trevor Rosenthal the opportunity to keep starting and stretch into that multi-inning reliever they seem to want him to be.

“I don’t think he’ll crack the rotation, but it will definitely give him a chance to pitch multiple innings. It’s a role he’s well suited for, and it would be nice for the Cardinals to have someone besides Broxton to pitch the middle innings of close games,” said Redbird Daily‘s Colin Yarborough.

But beyond that, Adam Butler, also of Redbird Daily, thinks that proving himself this spring could help Rosenthal force his way into the discussion if and when a starter goes down. He says, “I don’t see him earning a rotation spot over Wacha. But if he can show that he can control his secondary pitches and they can be effective then he probably puts himself in a spot where he could step in if one of their current five starters gets injured.”

What do you think?

Adams agrees to deal as arbitration figures are due to be exchanged

The St. Louis Cardinals and first baseman Matt Adams agreed to a one year deal yesterday that avoids the arbitration process for the second year eligible player. Jon Heyman reports that the deal is for 1 year and worth $2.8 million. That represents a raise from the $1.65 million he earned last year and equal to the $2.8 million salary he was projected to earn this season by MLB Trade Rumors.

Adams, 28, hit .249/.309/.471 last season with 16 home runs in 118 games for the Cardinals. With the organization verbally committing to Matt Carpenter at first base, Adams looks to be the left handed power bat off the bench. Adams excelled as a pinch hitter last season, going 12-for-37 (.324) with 3 HR and 13 RBI.

This is Adams’ second year of arbitration eligibility, so while the team is not committed to him past the 2017 season, they hold one more year of team control on him if they choose to exercise it.

Arbitration eligible players are scheduled to exchange figures with their teams today as they prepare for February hearings if agreements can’t be reached. The Cardinals have four players who are arbitration eligible and have yet to reach agreements: Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Kevin Siegrist.

Today those players and the Cardinals will exchange salary figures, the players indicating what they wish to be paid and the Cardinals indicating what they wish to pay them. Usually at this point an agreement can come quickly since all the cards are on the table. However, if the two sides are still unable to reach an agreement, an arbitration hearing will be scheduled in February. Both sides will present their cases as to why their salary number is correct and then the arbiter will decide which figure the player will be paid.

The Cardinals have not had a negotiation reach the arbitration hearing since 1999.

Column: So you want a cleanup hitting first baseman…

It’s been hard to miss that the hot topic since the Cardinals inked the deal for outfielder Dexter Fowler is that they may wade into the waters for Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Trumbo if their asking price continues to fall. The reasoning is obvious, adding another big bat to the Cardinals lineup and one that is proven at producing runs. Both get the title as “100 RBI” guys.

But as I tweeted this weekend, I hate the moniker of “100 RBI” guys. RBI are a function of team performance. For example, Encarnacion led the American League with 127 RBI last year, but if he had batted third for the Cardinals instead of the Blue Jays, he would have likely missed out on 100 RBI due to the lack of opportunities.

Encarnacion had 490 runners on base when he took an at bat last season. Meanwhile Matt Carpenter drove in runs at the same rate as Encarnacion, but had just 271 base runners on base when he came to the plate. Yet another reason why moving Carpenter down the lineup is so important for the Cardinals.

But not only that, the Cardinals actually had four players who could have been 100 RBI guys given the same number of base runners that Encarnacion had. Those are Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, and none other than Matt Adams.

This column began as an analysis of the projectability of Encarnacion and Trumbo outside of their hitter friendly ballparks. Instead, the more I dig into it, the more I come to one inescapable conclusion. The Cardinals already have their cleanup hitting first baseman. His name is Matt Adams.

If you haven’t yet closed out the tab in your browser yet, I can’t believe those words are coming out of my brain onto my keyboard and into this article either. A year and a half ago at the trade deadline I wrote that the team should find another starting first baseman and dump Adams at the first chance they got. Last winter I called for him to be non-tendered. Last April I suggested he should be the guy to go when Jhonny Peralta came off the disabled list.

But here we are. Last week suggesting it’s time to schedule Yadier Molina’s exit and now suggesting Adams should be the team’s first baseman next year, I’m certainly picking the popular topics.

Through the minor leagues, Adams’ numbers fit the stereotypical cleanup hitter. He hit for average and he hit for power. I remember figuring that the power would probably carry into the Majors, the question would be how much he could hit.

In 2011, Adams won the Texas League Player of the Year Award after hitting .300/.357/.566 with 32 home runs. The previous year he’d hit .310/.355/.541 with 22 home runs and 41 doubles for Quad Cities. He was rewarded before the 2012 season by being named Baseball Prospectus’ #69 prospect on their annual top-100.

Adams would go on to hit .340/.375/.603 with 9 home runs in 37 games for Memphis before getting called up for his first taste of the big leagues in May 2012.

In 2013, Adams stuck with the big league club, spending all but about two weeks with the team. He would put his name on the map by hitting .315 with 8 home runs after taking over the everyday first base job following the injury to Allen Craig in early September. Perhaps setting the bar too high for him to follow up.

He put together a quietly solid 2014 season, his first as the team’s regular first baseman, hitting .288/.321/.457 with 15 home runs over 142 games for a 116 OPS+. A hot start in 2015 would give way to a rough May before a quad injury would rob him of the next three months.

His .249/.309/.471 slash line last season wasn’t much to write home about, but it was perhaps the most intriguing season Adams has had for the Cardinals since the September back in 2013.

There was a point in May where Adams was one of the Cardinals’ most productive hitters, leading the team in RBI.

He has proven himself as a slightly above average defensive first baseman that belies his size.

And Adams slayed left handed pitching last season. He came into the year having hit .197 and slugged .317 against left handed pitching in his career. He hit .283 against left handed pitchers and slugged .522 against them.

For Adams, it’s really that ability — or inability, as it may be — to hit left handed pitching that’s been the question mark for him. If he couldn’t hit left handed pitching, he was no better than a platoon player. If he could hit both ways, well, then we’re talking about a very good cleanup hitter.

As I’ve mentioned several times on The UCB Podcast over the past few years, I love Freddie Freeman as a comp for Adams. Both first basemen. Both left handed. Both had time on the Top-100 prospect lists. Both profiled as middle of the lineup bats in the minors. Both could hit both ways in the minors.

When you dig into Freeman’s early Major League stats, you see that it took him a couple seasons — roughly 400 at bats — before he became a consistent threat against both right and left handed pitching. And once he figured that out, he went from a 114 OPS+ player to a guy who has averaged 145 OPS+ and finished in the top-6 in MVP voting twice in the four years since.

The difference for Freeman was that he got to play every day. Atlanta gave him a chance to develop his approach at the plate against both left handed and right handed pitchers. Adams has not been given the same opportunity. Freeman had 414 at bats against left handed pitching in his first two seasons in the Majors. Adams has had just 264 in his career, and he’s been in the Majors for the better parts of four seasons now. Whether we realized it or not, Mike Matheny has basically had him in a platoon situation.

It’s because of the lack of sustained opportunities, that Adams hasn’t had the ability to develop his approach against left handed pitchers in the Majors. Regardless of what Matheny will say about there being no time for development in the Majors, the only place Adams can develop that approach against Major League caliber left handed pitchers is in the Majors.

It’s not just his potential that makes him the right guy to be the Cardinals’ regular first baseman, he does two things the Cardinals need to do better next year: play defense and drive in runs.

The Cardinals were 8th last season in at bats with runners on base, but were just 22nd in batting average with men on. Adams was tied for the second highest RBI rate on the team last season, driving in 17.1% of base runners when he came to the plate. Only Carpenter’s 17.3% was better.

Starting Adams and sliding Carpenter back over to third takes Jedd Gyorko (11.2%) and Jhonny Peralta (10.8%) out of the lineup. Already that’s a 6% improvement in driving in runs.

Adams is a solid defensive first baseman. He may not win any gold gloves, but he gets the job done. In his only full season at first base, he had +8 defensive runs saved. His UZR has been positive in each of the last three seasons.

Meanwhile over at third base, neither Peralta nor Gyorko are known for their exemplary defense. Peralta wasn’t a good third baseman seven years ago when he played the position every day, why is he going to be now at 34? Gyorko had a good season last year defensively, but has not historically been a good defender. Part of me believes that we will look back on his 2016 as we do Peralta’s 2014 season.

Carpenter isn’t going to win any gold gloves at third base either, but he is a competent third baseman. And he will benefit from playing the same position, wherever that ends up being. His worst defensive seasons are those where he’s played multiple positions. When he’s been given one position to play, he’s been fairly neutral and that’s better than the other options on the roster.

Encarnacion wants $20 million a year at age 34 for a guy who hasn’t played more than a half season in the field since 2010. He hit a ton of home runs in a hitter friendly ballpark. For those dollars, the risk and the questions are too great. And on Trumbo, I think that he might have a little more pop, but ultimately won’t give you the value over Adams that you want.

Much like Jon Jay before him, Adams may never be the player the fans expect him to be, but he can still be a very valuable player for this team.

Cardinals non-tender Seth Maness; bring back Adams and others

Today was Major League Baseball’s non-tender deadline. In case you’re not sure what that means, basically there are two classes of players under team control. There are players in their first three years of service who have their salaries set by the team, usually around the league minimum. Then there are players in their next three years of service who have their salaries set by arbitration. Now, there are more nuances than that, but that’s the basics. For those arbitration eligible players, today was the deadline to offer them their one-year contract for next season or to “non-tender” them and make them a free agent.

There were six Cardinals eligible for salary arbitration for 2017, first baseman Matt Adams and pitchers Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, and Seth Maness.

The Cardinals have confirmed that they have tendered contracts to Adams, Martinez, Wacha, Rosenthal, and Siegrist. So those five players are now under contract with the Cardinals for 2017. Those players and the team have until the arbitration hearing in February to agree on the player’s salary for 2017. If they can’t come to an agreement before the hearing, both sides submit a figure to the arbiter of what they believe the player should be paid and the arbiter decides who is right. The Cardinals haven’t had a case go to arbitration since the 1990s.

But there is one player that wasn’t tendered a contract, that was Seth Maness.

Maness, 28, has a career 3.19 ERA over 4 seasons with the Cardinals. He struggled this past season, but managed to put together a strong stretch through the summer, even while pitching injured. His season came to an end in August with what was said to have been Tommy John surgery. But he ended up only needing a UCL reconstruction, which gave the hope that he’d be back on the mound in 6–8 months instead of the 12–18 month recovery for Tommy John.

If you followed me on Twitter this afternoon, you know how surprised I was that Maness was let go. I figured Adams was on the fence, but argued that Maness was likely safe.

I argued that the quicker recovery time plus his relatively low salary, and him still having multiple seasons of team control ahead of him — even if he didn’t pitching 2017 — worked in his favor that they would hold onto him. I guess I was wrong.

In fact, I’m even more surprised that they let Maness go and did not perform a hard core culling of the roster that included Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal is projected to make $6.3 million — four times more than Maness — and was arguably the worst pitcher in the Majors last year. His 1.91 WHIP was just 0.002 from being the worst in the Majors among relievers who threw at least 40 innings, only former Cardinal Michael Blazek saving him from that honor. But Blazek would not have pitched the same high leverage situations that Rosenthal did.

For the guys who were kept, the roles of Siegrist and Martinez are pretty set and while the roles for Rosenthal and Wacha aren’t public, the team has discussed that they are bouncing around some ideas for what their roles would be. The question that today brings up is what the future holds for Matt Adams.

Adams, 28, hit .249/.309/.371 with 16 home runs last season for the Cardinals. Long considered a platoon candidate, Adams had his best season ever against left handed pitching, batting .283 with 3 home runs against them. There was even a point in May where Adams was the team’s leading offensive threat.

But the Cardinals recently committed to Matt Carpenter as their everyday first baseman for 2017, which means that Adams doesn’t have a pathway to a starting role for the team next year, something he’s always been given in St. Louis.

Some have suggested that he could be used off of the bench, and it does make sense as he’s hit .330 with 7 home runs as a pinch hitter in his career. However, he’s only ever played first base. Carpenter has played 154+ games three times in the past four years, so that leaves, at most, 10 starts for Adams. Even if he made 60 pinch hit appearances, that’s not even 100 plate appearances.

Adams’ best value to this team should be by trade. Either in a package to acquire something the team needs or prospects. But unlike with Jaime Garcia, where he wanted to unload a $12.5 million hot potato, I don’t think Mozeliak has a problem being left with Adams in the spring because carrying an extra first baseman is a lot easier than an extra starting pitcher.

Strikeouts are (mostly) overrated

Over at Cards Conclave today Doug made a post about who plays and strikeout rates and that got me started. This was supposed to be a simple few paragraphs about why strikeout rate is an overvalued metric of player ability in most cases, but after running across some numbers it became more. The discussion was focused on three players and who should play between Matt Adams, Brandon Moss, and Jeremy Hazelbaker. But since 140 characters makes it difficult to have a discussion…

As of this morning, Adams and Moss have a 30.7% K rate and Hazelbaker’s is at 29.9%. So over 600 plate appearances (generally considered a “full season”), Hazelbaker will strike out 5 fewer times. That’s hardly moving the needle. The three of them have the three highest strikeout rates on the team, so it isn’t like we’re debating between that 30.7% K rate and Aledmys Diaz‘s team leading 8.9% K rate.

I’ve been fairly vocal of my opinion of strikeouts over the years. They get a bad rap. Getting one out by swinging through a ball is far better for the team than getting two outs with poor contact.

So ultimately, making good contact with the ball is far more important. I think most everyone would agree, but I do understand why some use K rate as an inverse measure of contact rate. The logic is sound that if you’re striking out a lot, you may be having trouble squaring up the ball.

But no longer do we have to rely on a rudimentary logic jump to determine just how well players are hitting the ball.

We can look at ground ball rate. Matt Adams has a 27.0% ground ball (GB) rate, Moss has a 29.4% GB rate, and Hazelbaker has a 58.4% GB rate. That’s astoundingly high. That means almost 60% of the time Hazelbaker hits the ball, it’s on the ground. League average runs about 45%.

We can also look at line drive rate, which is a great measure to see how well a player is squaring up the ball at the plate. Matt Adams has a 29.7% line drive (LD) rate, Moss has a 21.6% LD rate, and Hazelbaker has a 15.2% LD rate. League average runs about 21%.

Just by that metric alone, when Matt Adams makes contact, he hits the ball hard twice as often as Jeremy Hazelbaker does. That is a meaningful difference.

But how much of a difference?

Line drives, of all the batted ball types (ground ball and fly ball being the other two) have the greatest odds of ending up as a hit. I wasn’t able to find 2015 or 2016 numbers in a quick search, but in 2014, the league had a .685 batting average on line drives and just a .239 batting average on ground balls (and .207 on fly balls for reference).

Further, when you do some math you find that a line drive produces 1.26 runs per out while a ground ball produces just 0.05 runs per out.

And when you take all of that in, it becomes pretty clear that Hazelbaker’s odds of continuing to out produce either Adams or Moss are pretty slim. Some of Hazelbaker’s early success can be attributed to pitchers learning him, but now they are finding out where his weaknesses are and that strikeout rate is rising.

Over the season’s first 10 games, Hazelbaker hit .419 with 3 home runs and a 24% K rate. In the 19 games since, he’s hit .216 with 2 home runs and a 35% K rate.

But that realization is not nearly as much fun as claiming Matheny is incapable of understanding this and is just playing favorites, right?

Why I’m OK trading or blocking Matt Adams

Last night on Twitter, I discussed whether Milwaukee would accept a straight-up offer of Matt Adams for Adam Lind. Immediate reaction is that it seems like an overpay for the Cardinals for Lind, but I don’t think so. Though that may come because I never truly believed in Adams a Major League caliber player. His power plays, no doubt, but does the rest of his skillset? Here’s why I think the way I do.

1. Matt Adams has taken a step back every season he’s spent in the big leagues

I consider 2013 to be his first real big league season. That season he had a phenomenal September in relief of the injured Allen Craig that may have really set that bar too high. He slugged 17 home runs in just 319 plate appearances and put up a 129 OPS+. Since then, he’s taken steps backwards in every season.

Based on his 2013 numbers, projected at 600 plate appearances, he was on pace to have hit 32 home runs. In 2014, that number fell to 16. And then this year, a little further to 15.

In 2013 he had a .839 OPS. In 2014 that fell to .779. And then this year even further to .656.

Now basically two and a half seasons into his MLB career, he’s shown himself to be little more than a platoon caliber player with his .198 career batting average against left handed pitching making him a “must bench” a quarter of the year.

2. Matt Adams will be arbitration eligible this fall.

Because of his injury and the aforementioned steps backwards, he won’t get as much as he could have, but he will still be making more than league minimum. For a guy that you aren’t sure can be an everyday player, is he the right investment for you to be making?

3. Adam Lind is as good or better than Adams right now.

Lind and Adams are similar players. Both have power as their main calling card and both profile as the kind of players that you’d ideally platoon. The only difference is that Lind is five years older and has a little more proven performance in his background.

Lind is on pace for 26 home runs this season and is hitting .285. It isn’t a fluke year for Lind either, who has done this before. More than once. The Cardinals are in position to win now and I think it’s about time that they make a move like their are. If you could add Lind without giving up a top level prospect, that’s a win all around regardless of what Adams goes on to do in Milwaukee.

Going forward, Lind would actually fit well into the Cardinals’ plans. He can platoon with Stephen Piscotty at first base while Piscotty also grabs some at bats in the outfield. It carves out Piscotty the kind of role that Allen Craig filled in 2011 and 2012. When you consider exactly how such a move would fit together, I think it makes sense.

After all of this you may be asking why Milwaukee would want Adams now that I’ve torn him apart. Two main reasons, cost savings and potential.

Out of the gate you’re saving the Brewers $8 million next year and a few million the rest of this year. Obviously the Brewers will pick up that option if they can’t trade him because of the value Lind can provide at the plate.

Then there is the potential of Matt Adams and the player he has been. Milwaukee can give him the ability to play everyday to find that potential in a way that St. Louis can’t. If Matt Adams isn’t going to be good today, a championship contender like the Cardinals doesn’t have the luxury of waiting on him to become it.

The Brewers have the ability to let Adams play everyday and come into his own. I’d even be willing to send along a lottery ticket prospect to grease the wheel.

On our monthly UCB Radio hit, Kevin Reynolds and I talked that 2015 was probably the make-or-break year for Adams, as far as penciling himself into the team’s long term plans. With the injury, he’s probably bought himself another year. That’s lucky for him because this year wasn’t going very well.

For his part, John Mozeliak seems to still be high on Adams as an everyday player that you want to see taking 600+ plate appearances a year. He’s even said that he doesn’t want to block him with a trade acquisition, but I’m hopeful that’s just to create a bargaining position. I see Matt Adams’ value at a tipping point that may be as high as it will be going forward. Historically, that’s when Mozeliak strikes.

What do the Cardinals do about first base now?

During Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the St. Louis Cardinals seem to have lost first baseman Matt Adams to a quadriceps injury that may cost Adams the remainder of the 2015 season. A torn quadriceps was the diagnosis Wednesday morning as the Cardinals placed Adams on the 15 day DL and recalled catcher Ed Easley up from Memphis.

Immediately taking his place as the team’s regular first baseman will be Mark Reynolds. It was this role, insurance for Matt Adams, that Reynolds was signed to fill. Though he’s going to be used a little differently than expected.

Off to a slow start this season, Adams was looking like he was going to take yet another step back from the promise he displayed in 2013 when he hit .315 with 8 home runs in September while filling in for Allen Craig. While Adams had picked it up in recent days, it still wasn’t enough to make his splits over the last week wort going crazy over.

The loss of Adams will hurt a little bit, but for me more because Reynolds will no longer be a regular fixture off the bench. Instead he will be in the starting lineup where he will be used whenever his spot comes up instead of in certain situations.

So far in 2015, Reynolds has outperformed Adams offensively. Adams has a slash line of .243/.281/.375 with 4 home runs in 43 games. Reynolds has exceeded that with his line of .250/.314/.406 with 3 home runs in 39 games. Even when you break down that performance to platoon situations against LHP and RHP, Reynolds still comes out on top in both categories.

You’re also probably improving the lineup and the offense by more than just putting Reynolds into it. Mike Matheny had been insistent on batting Adams in the cleanup spot as he did last year with Craig. Reynolds won’t be hitting fourth (he batted 7th tonight), so you’re improving the lineup flow by removing Adams’ struggling bat from the middle of our best hitting players.

With the return of Jon Jay on the horizon (expected this weekend), many have suggested that it will create a playing time squeeze in the outfield and force one of our outfielders to move to first base. The debate has raged on about which outfielder would be best to move to first base, but that’s the second question to ask. The first question, and most important, is whether you have four outfielders who are clearly better than Mark Reynolds. Early returns say no.

By OPS+, one of my favorite metrics for comparing hitters, Jay and Jason Heyward have not been better than Reynolds. At best, Peter Bourjos is a virtual tie. That leaves just Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk as having outperformed him this season. And given the numbers, tells us that if we’re taking someone out of the lineup, it probably should be Heyward if we’re trying to force any particular outfielder into the lineup.

Many have targeted Matt Holliday as the perfect guy to transition to first base. About the only reason I can figure for that is because he’s older, slow, and has a stocky build. First base is where those guys go to finish their careers right?

Yes, Holliday was drafted as a third baseman, but he hasn’t played a single game on the infield in almost 16 years. Holliday has even expressed that he’s not that interested in a move, saying, “there’s a reason they moved me to the outfield.”

Other than Holliday, only one outfielder on our roster has ever played the infield. Lucky for us, it was at first base, right? Jon Jay appeared at first base in a game in 2009 for Memphis and then again in 2010.

I think that until we have four outfielders who can clearly give us more production than Reynolds is, there isn’t a cause for discussion about this idea and it really shouldn’t be looked at as an option.

If you are insistent about moving an outfielder to first base, I think it would make sense to move your most athletic guy. The thought being that his athleticism should help him make up for the lack of experience playing the position as well as make plays that the rest of the outfielders wouldn’t be able to on the infield. Seeing as the plays that happen at first base are generally more important than routine fly balls to left field, I’d look at putting the team in the best position there first. To me, that means Randal Grichuk.

But I don’t see the Cardinals shaking up the bag and forcing an outfielder into the lineup at first base. Particularly when none of them have ever put the ability to play multiple positions on their resume. Plus, there are a number of other players on the roster who are capable of filling those shoes if necessary.

Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, and Jhonny Peralta are all guys who can take on that role. You could even dig into the minors for Xavier Scruggs (or with a little experience in the minors first, Stephen Piscotty).

I’d be really surprised if the Cardinals pursued a hitter outside the organization to take Adams’ place as long as Reynolds is healthy. It really isn’t because of the money, the Cardinals have it to spend if they want to. Rather it’s about the prospects you have to spend to bring someone in (note, same kind of prospects who have played a vital role in keeping this team competitive when we lose our high dollar players to injury) and the years you have to commit to them once they’re here.

Take the situation of a Ryan Howard. Howard has had an incredible last month. Since April 24th, Howard is hitting .291/.333/.624 with 10 home runs. Is that going to be Howard’s best month of the season? Given what he’s done the last few seasons, it’s probably a safe bet.

But Howard is signed through next season with a hefty buyout to get out of his option for 2017. What do you do with Adams and Howard on the roster next year and potentially the next two? It’s easy to dismiss that question now, but that is definitely something that a General Manager has to consider and answer to the owner for.

The irony of all if this discussion is that if Mark Reynolds was in another team’s uniform, he’d probably be near the top of most lists as a potential acquisition. The grass is always greener, I guess.

I expect the Cardinals to be on the lookout for someone to solidify the bench this summer. Someone who can play the role Reynolds played off the bench. With the expectation being that the Cardinals will need to add a starting pitcher this summer, that’s something you can probably get added to a deal without giving up much additional.

While we’re suggesting trades, why not Allen Craig?

Just kidding.

Sort of.