Cardinals Front Office Proves Once Again Their Commitment to Mediocrity: A Case Study

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

There’s a growing sense among the Cardinals fan base that the front office is not fully committed to doing everything it takes to win the World Series. Just a cursory look at social media shows the temperature, and it’s building to a boiling point.

The 2018 offseason proved to be a fruitful one. The trade and subsequent signing of Paul Goldschmidt provided at least a glimmer of hope that the St. Louis Cardinals front office was finally realizing something. In order to win, you got to spend.

It’s not so much that the Cardinals aren’t willing to spend money. They had the ninth highest payroll in the majors in 2019. Goldy aside, they just aren’t willing to spend money on the right players.

They will, however, dole out bad contracts to aging veterans who display clear signs of a skills decline. Think Matt Carpenter. The Cardinals extended Carpenter last off-season after a mixed bag of a year in 2018. It was the wrong move. His two year, $39 million extension looks really bad right now.

Consider this. In 2018, Carpenter hit 36 home runs, scored 111 runs, and drove in 81 RBI. He hit .257 and produced a 5.0 WAR and wRC+ of 140. Pretty good right? Not when you look at the whole body of work.

Nineteen of those 36 HR were hit in July and the last week and a half of June. Nine were hit in the month of August. He only hit eight home runs total in all the other months combined.

Carpenter’s wRC+ during that time was as follows:

Mar/Apr 66

May 158

Jun 179

Jul 216

Aug 157

Sep/Oct 56

Make no mistake, Carpenter had a monster year in 2018. However, it was a tale of three Carpenters. The first and final thirds of the season were horrendous. His strikeout rate ballooned to 28.4% in the final month of the year. In fact, the only month he posted a K% below 20% was in July. The signs were already there pointing to a decline.

Fast forward to 2019. Carpenter was awful. He hit 15 HR, put up a 95 wRC+ and a measly 1.2 WAR. What’s more, his ISO dropped a full 100 points from .266 in 2018 to .166 last year. His power completely fell off in 2019. A fact supported by the Cardinals analytics team which found that Carpenter’s strength declined significantly last year.

According to Mozeliak, Carpenter’s struggles were due to his inability to maintain strength and weight. Really? He’s 34. What did the front office expect? Kudos to Derrick Goold on the story.

I’m not trying to knock Carpenter. I like him. I actually consider him a future Cardinal Hall of Famer who should be wearing a red jacket on Opening Day one day. Not Cooperstown worthy, but definitely worthy of a red jacket.

Now here’s the rub in all this. Third base was clearly one of the weakest, if not the weakest, spots in the lineup in 2019 pre-Tommy Edman. Marcell Ozuna is leaving as a free agent leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the order.

There’s plenty of young guys with extreme talent in the outfield portion of the Cardinals’ farm system. So clearly an offensive upgrade should come at the hot corner. Enter this year’s crop of free agent third