From the final out of Game 4 of the NLDS against the victorious Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals have done some changing. As far as the last line of defense is concerned, most of the ways to altercate a roster have taken place in St. Louis this offseason.
The Cardinals added Anthony Garcia and Charlie Tilson to their 40-man roster back in November, protecting them from the Rule 5 draft in December. Between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis in 2015, Garcia slashed .283/.391/.477. While playing in the Texas League with Double-A Springfield, Tilson smashed twenty doubles and commanded 46 walks.
In early December, the Cardinals made a trade with the San Diego Padres to acquire utility infielder Jedd Gyorko. In exchange for the versatile 27-year-old, the Cardinals sent outfielder Jon Jay to San Diego. Some complications with his left wrist, including a stress fracture, bone bruise, and tendinitis, limited him to 79 games in 2015, snapping his streak of playing in at least 105 games a season since 2010. Even when he is at his best, he’d likely find little work with the Cardinals’ young and promising outfielders in need of playing time. Though injury was not involved, a similar case was had by Peter Bourjos.
When the Cardinals traded 2011 World Series MVP David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels, the main piece being flipped back to them was speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos. The Cardinals had plans drawn out for Bourjos, planning to play him in centerfield and beef up their baserunning game. It just didn’t work out. Over the last two seasons, Bourjos gathered 459 at-bats in 236 games and put up an on-base percentage of .292. Speed is certainly a fine trait for a player to have, but you can’t steal first base. On the flipside, Bourjos received very little playing time from August of 2015 onward. He summed up a mere 30 at-bats in the season’s final months, so no wonder he was not performing per his normality when he was playing. He was claimed off of waivers by the Philadelphia Phillies in early December and is likely to serve as the team’s centerfielder. Another former Cardinal is likely to play centerfield for his new team, too, but he departed the team on more than just waivers.
Despite being offered a contract worth upwards of $200 million from the Cardinals, 26-year-old Jason Heyward vowed to accept a deal worth less money and play elsewhere. In fact, he agreed to an eight-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. The deal features an opt-out after the 2018 season and a signing bonus, which stands at $20,000,000. So, shall he choose to opt-out of the deal, he will be paid that signing bonus. Heyward’s reasoning for accepting the Cubs’ offer rather than the Cardinals’ offer may shock some. His reason? The core players of the Cardinals are aging, and the Cubs’ vernal squad would only enhance his overall playing experience. While that’s a respectable reason that may be valid, the Cardinals’ have some talented players of their own that are on the right side of thirty. A couple of those players happen to be outfielders that are shaping out to have key roles in the upcoming season. That couple of players is Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk.
Stephen Piscotty was promoted from Triple-A Memphis on July 21, and his play lacked any glimmer of a reason to send him back. In 63 games, Piscotty batted .305 and tallied 39 RBI. Along with stellar work of the lumber, Stephen displayed great defensive versatility. He gathered 385 1/3 innings in left field, 90 1/3 in right, 57 at first base, and five in centerfield. In those 537 2/3 innings of fieldwork, he committed two errors. His first postseason was one for the ages. Stephen batted .375, hit three homers, and drove in six runs. He is the first player to have a homer and at least two RBI in three of his first four postseason games.
Randal Grichuk’s season was put on pause in the middle of April, the month in which he was placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain. He returned in the middle of May and began to crank out the numbers. In his rookie season — which was put on hold again from the middle of August to September by an elbow strain — Grichuk hit seventeen home runs and had an OPS of .877. In the postseason, Grichuk homered and hit .250. Being that Grichuk is an outfielder, his offensive emergence was welcomed with very opened arms by the Cardinals, a team that lost its leftfielder and reliable third-hole hitter by mid-June.
Matt Holliday tore his right quadriceps in a ballgame on June 8, less than a week after being ejected from the one where his 45-game on-base streak to start the season was snapped. He returned July 17, but he aggravated the injury less than two weeks later, placing him back on the disabled list until September 15. The two DL stints limited Holliday to 73 games and helped mark the 2015 season as the first season since 2005 in which the powerful right-handed hitter hit fewer than twenty long balls. His two DL stints also gave way to one Tommy Pham, a 27-year-old that was finally given more than a cup of coffee in the Majors this season.
After eight different disabled list stints pestered him since August of 2010, things finally began to roll to a tune of Tommy Pham’s liking in 2014. He first made the Majors as a September call-up and appeared in six games. He performed well in 2015’s spring exhibition season, and he had a case going to crack the team’s 25-man roster right out of camp. However, Pham strained his left quadriceps at Spring Training’s end, landing him on the 15-day disabled list. On the first day of May, he was transferred to the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A in early June. About a month after being optioned, he was bumped up to the parent team, where he’d play until being optioned back seventeen days later. Then, on August 17, Pham was promoted back, where he’d play and stay for the remainder of the season. In 52 games for the Cardinals in 2015, Pham tripled five times and drove in eighteen runs.
The Cardinals’ outfield is shaping out to feature Stephen Piscotty in right, Randal Grichuk in center, and Matt Holliday in left. Tommy Pham will serve as the team’s fourth outfielder. Worthy of notation is Brandon Moss. Moss, although he may best serve the team as a first baseman, is capable of playing in the outfield. As for Charlie Tilson and Anthony Garcia, they’ll both be attending Spring Training, though likely to start the season with Memphis or Springfield.
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