Jon Jay and Skip Schumaker are on the disabled list, along with a half-dozen of the Cardinals’ other key players, so manager Mike Matheny is getting creative with tonight’s lineup: Carlos Beltran is playing center field for the first time since 2010.
That last center field start in 2010 came for the Mets, but tonight the 35-year-old Beltran will be playing against the Mets in New York.
He’ll be flanked by Matt Holliday in left field and Allen Craig in right field. Craig actually started in center field five times for the Cardinals last season, but since then he’s had knee surgery and just returned from a disabled list stint for a hamstring injury.
Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers are the other options in center field, which is why Matheny is willing to take the hit defensively–or at least put Beltran’s knees at increased risk–to get more offensive punch into the lineup.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.