For the St. Louis Cardinals, the time has come to evaluate the present outfield against the future one. GM John Mozeliak has repeatedly said that a potential outfield of Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk is very exciting, but not until down the road. However, in evaluating the club’s current trajectory, it feels as if the Cardinals are a bat or two short of winning the World Series.
The thought process then becomes rather uncomfortable, because the team has to decide if it can win a championship with its current roster — and in my view it can’t — or does it make adjustments and allow some of that corner OF talent to shine? The 800-pound elephant in the room is of course Taveras, a prodigious left-handed hitting talent frequently compared to legend Vladimir Guerrero.
Dispatched in the spring by his own reluctance to test his ankle, Taveras so far has done exactly as expected and posted a .297 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 69 plate appearances to start the season, good for an .848 OPS. These numbers figure to get better as the season drags on, and Piscotty is not far behind him. If the lineup is simply not good enough, at what point does Taveras get the call? I believe any day now.
While I feel Piscotty is a more polished hitter and will hit for higher average, Taveras is the game plan changing, intentional walk inducing, make pitchers sweat threat the Cardinals currently lack. If he is called up, he will likely stay, and you don’t leave a .900 OPS guy on the bench. So what to do with Allen Craig and Matt Adams? One of them has to go, as neither one of them has done anything to warrant being benched. Adams in particular has torn up the league for average but little power.
Yet if you look at investments already made, Craig is a known commodity signed to a long-term deal who desperately needs to get out of right field and man a less injury causing 1B. This means that it is most likely that Adams gets shipped for a high-end infield prospect and a right-handed reliever, which the club is in need of. The team likes Adams and he has been solid, but in this scenario Craig returns to 1B, a defensive necessity, and Taveras moves to right for the next 15 years. It is time to see just what Taveras has, and I predict in May the Oscar goes to right field; and shortly thereafter, Adams finds a new family.