Let's Get Back To Baseball. Did Cardinals "Miss" A Chance Not Adding Edwin Encarnacion?

By Beth Chapman
Dec. 26, 2016

Hope all had a wonderful Christmas celebrating with family and friends. Now, that Santa has delivered gifts around the world, let's get back to baseball. 

"Believe" from one of the Best Cardinals fans ....

Prior to our recent holiday, Cardinals fans were hot on the trail of 3B/DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion. Seems many thought to spend an absorbent amount of cash would surely bring success to the 2017 season for the Cardinals. To do some damage against the 2016 World Series winners, the Chicago Cubs. Those rivals of the St. Louis team fan base. I still contend, spending big bucks does not guarantee a winner, as we all have witnessed by the Los Angeles Dodgers trying their best to "buy a team" of contention. Certain moves are viable and the Cardinals made one of those by signing CF Dexter Fowler from this year's free agent list. 

I still feel, we have a solid infielder in our midst, even though sidelined most of the 2016 season. The services of 3B/SS Jhonny Peralta, in my opinion, can be counted on this coming season. Both players, Encarnacion and Peralta, are 33 and 34 years of age, respectively. Both have been solid players. Encarnacion held a .263 BA in 2016 and Peralta held a .260 with very limited play. Neither have been a Golden Glover defensively; nor, earned a Silver Slugger award. 

Encarnacion does have more flash offensively as a designated hitter. The last he played more than 100 games in the field was eight seasons ago, in 2008. Thus, spending upwards of $90 MM for any length of time for him made no sense to me. To expect him to be an everyday player was not feasible. To date, there is no DH in the National League. Yes, he put up 42 HR/127 RBI in 2016 for the Toronto Blue Jays; but, only had 47 complete games at first base. He only made 75 appearances in the field in 2016. Signing with the Cleveland Indians as a designated hitter fits him well. Per Steve Adams, MLB Trade Rumors, December 22, 2016: "8:36 pm: FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that the deal is $60 MM, not $65 MM, over the three-year term of the contract. Encarnacion’s club option is worth $25 MM and comes with a $5 MM buyout, meaning his deal can max out at $80 MM, per Rosenthal."

 No, I could not see our Cardinals going for such a deal. Nor, would I have wanted them to. Even though, many Cardinals fans were upset they didn't. 

Due to sustaining a thumb injury which required surgery, Jhonny Peralta losing his shortstop position to Aledmys Diaz, was moved to third base.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

By trade, Peralta was a shortstop. He has logged 394 games in his three seasons with the Cardinals. However, only 82 games in 2016 due to sustaining a thumb injury in Spring Training and re-injury of the same during the season. Losing his everyday position behind second base, he was moved to cover third base last season. He has been on the "trade wish list" of many fans. Not only did he come to the Cardinals, with some discarded baggage from 2013 while with the Detroit Tigers as he paid his dues serving a 50 game suspension.  Since he has worked hard for the Cardinals without the use of PEDs and has held his promise never to use again. After a downhill slide in 2015, that was followed by a rough 2016 injury ridden, the first such situation for Peralta. 

After returning from a strained thumb ligament on August 2, though, Peralta was much more like his old self at the plate, posting a .284/.337/.403 line. It was perhaps a bit concerning that Peralta’s power output seemed to dip over that period, as he collected just 14 extra-base hits over his final 176 at-bats, as compared to 12 in his first 113, but overall he looked much more like an everyday starter. (Patrick Karraker, Fansided

Peralta was used in the clean-up spot for the Cardinals much of his 2015 season. Slash line of .275/.334/.411/.745 in the #4 hole. Now that he has had a full off-season for his thumb/hand to fully heal, will he be counted on the return as clean-up? Unless, he shows such power during the upcoming 2017 Spring Training, I don't believe so. However, should he be close to his 2016-two month numbers, he could be the power in the lower half of the line-up. And, as I expect, he will once again cover third base. He will be in competition with the 28 year old infielder Jedd Gyorko

Gyorko was the home run king for the Cardinals in 2016 with a career high of 30 HR. In his 128 game appearances, he had 59 RBI (58 runs) for a .243 BA/.306 OBP/.495 SLG/.801 OPS. He played 2B/SS/3B. At third, (39 games/272 innings) he held a .962 Fldg% - 21 PO/54 A/7 DP/3 E. Peralta, in his newly appointed position (67 games/570.1 innings), held a .976 Fldg% - 39 PO/125 A/15 DP/4 E. 

Even with those comparable numbers, should Peralta return with a solid bat, will he win the everyday position? Gyorko sharing duty in the infield last season, at the plate with 97 hits in 400 AB, he saw a 96/37 SO/BB ratio. Peralta with 75 hits in his 289 AB, 56/20 SO/BB. 

My view is that Jhonny Peralta will be back with a solid bat and be ready for the competition before him. I feel he will be able to contribute 20 HR/75 RBI in 2017. However, not necessarily as clean-up. Therefore, that still leaves the question, who will the Cardinals pencil in for the #4 spot? The organization has been fairly quiet since their signing of Fowler. Presumably, Fowler will be lead-off, Matt Carpenter following with Stephen Piscotty in third. 

Kolton Wong, second baseman for the Cardinals. Defensively, tremendous talent which landed him a 5 Yr/$25.5 MM contract his first year of arbitration eligible in 2016.

Could it be conceivable, should lefty Kolton Wong really return with a new found power bat this off-season, would he be a consideration?  The glory of collecting his career high of RBI, I believe, is a goal for the young 26 year old. However, in my recall of his ill-concentrated swing, save one of knocking the two seamer out of the park for 5 HR this past season. He definitely has room for improvement on a consistent basis. (Which at times I was sure his left arm would come out of the socket pushing air, much as he did in 2015) Reportedly, again, he is working on new mechanics for a more productive at bat. Since the Cardinals still hold faith in him (2016 signing 5 Yr/$25.5 MM contract), will he come into 2017 to earn his paycheck? Defensively, Wong is, hands down, an extremely good second baseman. If he adds a much improved bat, he will be lethal. 

I do realize one thing about Wong. He does not want to be a bench warmer again this coming season.