Kolten Wong has had a great ride, and it’s too bad the Cards just gave him an extension, but it’s time for him to go.
Throughout the 2016 season, the Cardinals have experimented with many different outfield combinations. Whether it was with Cinderella story Jeremy Hazelbaker making the team out of training camp, taking fan favorite Randal Grichuk out of the lineup and then ultimately, sending him to the minor leagues, or moving Kolten Wong from second base to centerfield, Mike Matheny has not been afraid to change up his lineup.
Out of all of the different moves, Kolten Wong to the outfield was the most ludicrous. Wong is an excellent defender but lost his starting job when All Star Jhonny Peralta returned from the DL. Wong’s bat simply has not been what it was projected to be, hitting .235 in 62 games with one home run and 9 RBIs. While Wong is still young and has time to grow, his trade value is rapidly deteriorating, so he must be moved now.
If the Cardinals outfield continues to struggle, they will have no choice but to acquire another piece at the deadline. The Cardinals only legitimate trading pieces are Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong. It is very doubtful that GM John Mozeliak will be willing to part with any of his top prospects, meaning the Cards will need to use one of those two players to for someone that can help in their playoff run.
The team will not be able to acquire much value from Peralta. He is owed $23 million over the next two seasons, he is injury prone, and he has a history of steroid use. Peralta is passed his prime and any team that will be selling at the deadline, will not be interested in acquiring him.
On the other hand, Wong is just 25 years old and is on contract until 2021. Right now Wong is a man without a home. He cannot break the Cardinals infield and has always been a below average hitter throughout his career. He has speed but not enough to be significant, only stealing 40 total bases in the past four seasons.
If not second base, the only other option is in the outfield, but it is only a matter of time until Grichuk or Hazelbaker finds their game all Wong will be to the Cardinals then is a defensive specialist.
The main argument for keeping Wong would be for the future. When Peralta becomes a free agent after the 2017 season, Matt Carpenter could move back to third base and Wong can move back into the second base role. The Cardinals would be foolish to keep Wong looming around during his prime for a season and a half until he is finally ready to reclaim his starting position, though. The Cardinals also have an abundance of prospects that will be MLB ready by 2018 that would get an opportunity to claim the starting role over Wong by then.
Kolten Wong’s value is the highest it will ever be right now, and if the Cardinals want to make a run at the National League Central division (and beyond), they need to trade Wong for an arm and a bat. Wong could draw a lot of value, but only if the Cardinals are smart about it while he’s at peak worth.
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