Following the eye-popping signing of Dexter Fowler for 5 years, 82.5 million dollars, the Cardinals have established themselves as players in the free agent market.
Unfortunately, those remaining in this year’s class do not have much to offer for them. The dynamic players have already signed – Ian Desmond and his positional versatility went to the Rockies, Cespedes and his ability to play all 3 OF spots stayed with the Mets. The only obvious upgrade for the Cardinals would be Justin Turner, but the cost of his contract likely outweighs the reward of replacing Peralta.
However, there is a way around the cost of Justin Turner and that is through 1B. Matt Carpenter’s versatility allows him to play a second to third-tier 3B. Carpenter has a career -8 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at 3B; however, he did put together a DRS of 2 this past season (although only in 431 innings). Jhonny Peralta, who compiled the majority of the innings, had a DRS of -7. That means even if Carpenter regresses towards his career totals, he’ll be playing a relatively similar defense compared to the next best alternative. With his offensive WAR of 3.9 sitting 3.5 points higher than Peralta’s and comparable defensive abilities, there is a clear upgrade at 3B already on the team.
That leaves us with a hole to fill at 1B. Hello, Mr. Trumbo. Trumbo, at 30 years old, is the same age as Dexter Fowler. However, he plays much more like a guy reaching the end of his career: not very mobile or versatile. His long-term success will come as a DH, but I believe that he still has some serviceability in the National League.
The Orioles have tried Trumbo as an OF and it frankly has been a wreck, limiting him to mainly DH. First base has been occupied by Chris Davis, and Trumbo was not going to dethrone Davis. Yet, Trumbo is not a bad first basemen. In his only full seasons at first base (2013 and 2011 with the Angels), he posted a combined DRS of 11. In fact, both of those seasons are better than any season Matt Carpenter has ever compiled at first base. The most errors he’s made in a season at 1B is 10, and in his next full season there he only recorded 3. For those of you who are rooting for the Cardinals to sign Edwin Encarnacion, he has compiled a total DRS at 1B of -17, 28 runs behind Trumbo in nearly the same amount of innings. So, for all of this talk of Trumbo being a DH only guy, he is serviceable, if not above average at first base.
Factoring in his tremendous power, smacking 47 home runs this past season, it is hard to not be wooed by Trumbo. His homerun ability comes with drawbacks – posting a career AVG of only .251 and striking out in bunches, 170 last year and averaging 163 per season. This forces you to wonder: with the Cardinals pacing the National League in homers last season, do they really want another big homerun guy?
I say yes. This move would allow for upgrades at both 1B and 3B, both offensively and defensively. With the offensive consistency and stability that Dexter Fowler provides and the loss of Matt Holiday’s power, the Cardinals could actually use another big bat. With Carpenter taking over at third, this would limit the ABs by Peralta and Gyorko, taking away over 30 HRs from the lineup last season. It seems that adding Trumbo would not increase the Cardinals’ dependency on the long-ball, it will actually make up for the depletion of it.
Trumbo is predicted by MLB Trade Rumors to take a 4 year, 60-million-dollar deal. He is going to want to sign with an AL team because of his DH abilities. However, if his qualifying offer and high price cause him to stay on the market longer than he feels comfortable with, he will be more open to signing with an NL team for a shorter period of time. This opens a window for the Cardinals, who already lost their 1st round pick to the Cubs with the Fowler addition. The Cardinals have the money, and John Mozeliak is willing to spend it. Even more, this also would allow Gyorko, Adams or Peralta to be tradeable. Gyorko, after his performance last season, is a valuable asset in the 3B-starved market. Cardinals could benefit from the bullpen help that a trade including one of these players would provide.
Trumbo would add a spark that was missing on this team last year and would create a lineup that is tremendously more well-rounded. The Hot Stove is hot, the weather is cold, and the offseason is young, a Trumbo signing could be the holiday present Cardinals fans have been waiting for.
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