It seems crazy to think about considering how wrecked by injuries the Cardinals have been all season, but they could be on the verge of having too many quality hitters to fit into the lineup.
Lance Berkman is nearing a return from knee surgery and looks likely to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break, so assuming the rest of the Cardinals’ hitters can stay healthy in the meantime manager Mike Matheny will have a decision to make regarding Allen Craig.
Craig has been filling in for Berkman as the Cardinals’ primary first baseman, with Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran playing the outfield corners and Jon Jay in center field. Matheny could shift Beltran to center field on occasion, opening up right field for Craig, or he could take an even bigger hit defensively by using Craig at second base over the three-headed monster of Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, and Skip Schumaker.
Because of Beltran’s legs and Craig’s glove neither of those options are ideal, but when Craig is hitting .322 with 13 homers, 11 doubles, and a 1.046 OPS in 40 games–including two homers last night and four homers in his last 16 at-bats–it’s awfully tough to bench him. He’ll come back down to earth a bit at some point, but Craig has now logged 518 career plate appearances–slightly less than one full season’s worth of playing time–and has hit .300 with 28 homers, 33 doubles, and a .909 OPS.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.