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5-year deal good for Craig, Cardinals; no impact on Adams

As soon as the St. Louis Cardinals announced their signing of Allen Craig to a five-year contract with a sixth-year option, some assumed that pushed Matt Adams’ time as a Cardinal to its end.

The reality is that while the $31 million deal is good for Craig and good for the Cardinals, it has no impact on Adams’ constricted major league opportunity at all.

Here is why.

Even before the new contract, Craig was under team control for four more seasons, through 2016. While the deal bought cost certainty for the team and financial security for Craig, he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, either way.

Yes, Craig is blocking Adams from everyday duty at the latter’s only defensive position, first base. The reality is that Craig was blocking Adams last week and he still is blocking him today. The contract changes absolutely nothing in that regard.

In spring 2013, Adams first has to make the team. He is doing all he can to impress with the bat in Florida, but needs help from others. With St. Louis, he could look for pinch-hitting at-bats, stray starts when Craig rests or fills in for one of the corner outfielders and perhaps snag some designated hitter duty during expanded interleague play in 2013.

An extended injury to one of the corner outfield starters would create a need that could facilitate a temporary return of Craig to the outfield, but remember that Oscar Taveras is also waiting for his opening. The longer the season goes on, the odds that it would be Taveras, not Adams, getting the call may increase.  Given the current configuration of the roster, Craig going down is the only scenario in which Adams would seem to have a clear route to regular playing time with St. Louis. Of course, that is not something anyone would hope for.

In 2014 and beyond? Who knows? Perhaps Adams could be traded as part of a deal to improve the team in other areas. His continued solid play in 2013 will be important in helping to re-establish his full market value. A season-ending wrist injury last summer led to his drop on national top prospect lists and likely in the view of other general managers.

There is a lower-odds future opportunity with St. Louis, as well. When Carlos Beltran’s deal ends after this season, there is a chance Craig could be returned to semi-regular duty in right field. That would potentially clear a job for Adams, but due to the expected arrival of Taveras, it would be at the expense of incumbent leadoff man and centerfielder Jon Jay. That tradeoff may not be palatable.

Even that would seemingly not be possible unless Taveras demonstrates he can handle center on a regular basis, far from a certainty. Instead, if Taveras seizes the right-field job in 2014 and beyond as seems more likely, the block of Adams could become a check-mate play.

A further expansion of interleague action and/or quick adoption of the designated hitter in the National League could be made-to-order for Adams. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the latter, though. Given MLB’s DH “experiment” is now heading into its 41st year, the likelihood of that change occurring in the NL quickly enough to help Adams’ Cardinals chances appears slim.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig reaffirmed his satisfaction with the current DH implementation during the most recent all-star break.

“I like the DH rule,” Selig explained. “On the other hand, I’ve watched many National League games and I like that. I’ve often said, and I’ll say it again, it’ll take some cataclysmic event to maybe clean that up one way or another. What am I talking about? Geographical realignment, which really is not in the cards right now. Looking at all of the popularity and attendance figures, I guess our fans seem to like it the way it is and that’s very important to me. I don’t think the difference in rules has really hurt us at all. And it’s been 40 years now, so the grand old game is doing pretty well.”

In summary, Adams’ future with St. Louis remains murky, but no more so than it already was before Craig’s new deal was announced.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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65 Responses to “5-year deal good for Craig, Cardinals; no impact on Adams”

  1. blingboy says:

    Before the contract, there was the possibility Adams could out play Craig and take the 1B job at some point in the next couple years. Now there are 30 million reasons why that can’t happen.

    I like the contract because Craig is a hitting machine, but there has to be a psyc effect on Matt.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I guess there is a chance of anything, like in Dumb and Dumber chances, but I don’t think anyone believes that Craig would have become a bench player under any realistic circumstances. He is the team’s cleanup hitter.

      If Adams is psyched out by the Craig contract, then he was kidding himself beforehand.

      • blingboy says:

        Agreed, but there is an important difference between slim chance and no chance.

        • Brian Walton says:

          You say “important”. I say “insignificant.”

          I suppose if we want to get out into la-la land, one might argue that Craig is more tradeable now than he was before. He is locked in at a reasonable salary. So if the Cards become so good that Craig has no place to play, he could easily be dealt away. I give that trade scenario about the same chances as Craig becoming a reserve in the first place.

          • blingboy says:

            My only point of disagreement is whether the contract has a psyc effect on Matt. I am fine with agreeing to disagree on that. The reason I mentioned it at all is that he may end up making the team, and it could affect his quality of play, depending on how he handles it.

            PS. Its not fair arguing with somebody who can edit. 🙂

            • Brian Walton says:

              I still think a more realistic thought process for Adams was and still is, “I need to keep playing hard, so I can get traded somewhere I can play every day.”

              If he goes in the tank now because he had been thinking instead, “I need to keep playing hard so I can beat out Allen Craig,” then maybe he lacks the mental toughness to be a big-league standout, anyway. (Not that I believe that for a minute, but there is a “chance”.)

              As TLR was very fond of saying, “They are men, not machines.”

    • carlosbeltran5 says:

      Totally correct, Craig is just a hitting machine!

  2. blingboy says:

    Just a reminder, the game is on ESPN at noon.

    Jay 8, Carpenter 4, Freese 5, Adams DH, Robinson 7, Romak 3, Kozma 6, Christian 9, Towles 2, (Lynn 1).

    Should get a look at Maness today.

  3. blingboy says:

    Observations on the game.

    Two shutouts in a row.

    Maness had kind of an ugly meltdown. Young guy nerves I guess.

    Audry Perez looked good blocking Marte’s pitches in the dirt.

    Jackson looked bad on that first fielding chance.

    Kozma looked good in the field.

    Robinson deserves a job.

  4. crdswmn says:

    Here’s what I think about the 5th starter position.

    If they go with Kelly, I think Miller goes to Memphis. No sense in putting him in the pen. He is a starter and needs to remain one.

    If they go with Miller, put Kelly in the pen, and send Salas to Memphis. I can’t see them carrying 13 pitchers. Don’t see what Kelly has to offer anymore in Memphis and Salas has been so inconsistent.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Agree that Kelly should not go to Memphis. I continue to suspect it will be Miller, but there’s still time for them to make statements.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        All of the players are back in the containers…………. the 5yr plan sailing smoothly…..surplus is now over….. If the Cards start out slow………they will trade Wainwright in July……especially if he doesn’t………. windfall for BD to have a loser this year.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Wainwright is not going to be traded. Not now and especially not in July.

          The free agent rules have changed. The Cards would forfeit two one compensation pick by dealing him in-season and the acquiring club would not get them it even if he walked.

          Further, with the wild cards, many more clubs are in contention later each year. The Cards will almost certainly be among them.

          Finally, show me just one year since BDW has owned the team that the Cards were a seller. Just one.

          All the speculation about financial losses is just that. The team’s record under this ownership stands on its own and is indisputable.

  5. crdswmn says:

    I hope Cedeno doesn’t make the roster. He sucks. So does Wigginton, but we are stuck with him. Put Adams on the bench and we will have some pop, even though left handed.

    Shane Robinson deserves to make the team. He can’t go back to Memphis anyway.

  6. Lou Schuler says:

    Brian, all great points. But I do wish the NL would adopt the DH.

    Five years ago I probably would’ve laughed off anyone who advocated it. I grew up watching Bob Gibson, and always thought a ballplayer was a ballplayer, and anyone on the field should be able to catch, throw, hit, and run. (Actually, I still think that. But I’m also a soccer fan who would like to see American football played without different guys on offense on defense.)

    The problem, I realized a couple years ago, is that baseball at all levels now uses a DH. Yes, some of the very best hitters also pitch (just to pick one non-Cardinals example, Buster Posey was a closer at Florida State), but for the most part, as I understand it, elite pitchers don’t hit at the most competitive levels of amateur ball. Lance Lynn, for example, was a BA 3rd-team all-American as a two-way player in high school. (He hit 7 doubles and 14 home runs in 91 at-bats his senior year.) But I’m pretty sure he never hit at Ole Miss.

    So with very few exceptions (Dan Haren comes to mind), the pitchers we draft out of college haven’t hit since high school, and even then may not have hit on their summer travel teams. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the 16- and 17-year-old pitchers we draft in Latin America don’t hit at all until they reach the U.S. Even then, do they hit in the GCL or the other short-season leagues? If they don’t, that means no hitting until they make a full-season team, and only when they play another NL affiliate. If they’re good enough to reach the majors, it may be with just a couple dozen plate appearances in the past 5 or more years.

    Baseball only gives a team 27 outs. We waste at least 3 on pitchers who rarely go to the plate with a chance to do anything more than deliver a productive out. Meanwhile, we leave competent hitters in the minors who could, on average, make one fewer out than the pitchers. We also force older players to play the field every day when we could probably extend their careers and avoid costly injuries by allowing them to DH a couple times a week.

    In my fantasies baseball is still a game of great athletes who do everything. But in reality it’s a game where NL teams waste resources by having pitchers take at-bats that could be used a lot more productively by someone else.

  7. crdswmn says:

    Heard this tonight:

    Mike Aviles when asked what the most impressive thing he’s seen while on Team Puerto Rico,”Yadier Molina’s arm.”—
    Intentional Talk on MLB Network.

  8. JumboShrimp says:

    Oscar hype may have been suppressed by Shane Robinson’s hitting. As long as little reserve Shane Robinson is outhitting everyone, this deflates hype.

    No hype for Wiggy’s 437 OPS. Wigs is saving himself for the regular season. No point wasting hits now. Its uncool.

    The bench players will be Shane; Wiggy; Carpenter; a backup catcher; and a 5th guy. The 5th man could be Adams; Chambers; or Ronny Cedeno. Adams would be the best hitter, but the Cards will probably want him to play daily and this means AAA. If Wiggy had not been signed, Chambers would be in line for a roster spot. Unless I am overlooking somebody, the last roster slot seems between Cedeno and Chambers.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Another possibility would be to carry Johnson as a second reserve catcher. Or, we could add a player, as in 2004, picking up Tony Womack late in the spring.

      Chambers seems motivated and can give us a second left swinger off the bench. He can pinch-run. And play all OF roles.

      Another middle infielder may be the most helpful, defensively. Ronny could win the job if he strokes some hits and makes some plays. If he seems unmotivated, however, the Cards could give a job to Chambers.

    • Brian Walton says:

      I’ve not seen anyone suggest both Robinson and Chambers have a shot or that a third catcher is a real possibility. I give you credit for not following the pack, even though I don’t think either is likely.

      • crdswmn says:

        Carpenter, Cruz, Robinson, Wigginton and Adams. Those are my predictions.

        • blingboy says:

          I think that Carpenter and Adams cannot both be reserves. The reason is that if Adams makes the roster, then Cedeno doesn’t, which means Descalso is Kozma’s backup. So I doubt Descalso would be used as the starting second baseman. That means Carpenter will be a starter and Descalso a reserve.

          Descalso, Cruz, Robinson, Wigginton and Adams.

          A side note: If Adams makes the roster, Xavier Scruggs would likely be the starting 1B at Memphis. Wouldn’t be a bad time for the X man to have a career year.

          • crdswmn says:

            Descalso doesn’t have to be a reserve to back up Kozma. If you start both Kozma and Descalso, and have to take Kozma out, just move Descalso over to SS and bring in Carpenter for 2B.

            I imagine the Descalso/Carpenter 2B experiment will end up being more of a platoon anyway. Carpenter hits LHP better so I imagine he will get those starts plus some others where the match up with the pitcher is favorable.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Agree on bb’s five and why. If Carp can show enough glove, we know he has more bat than Descalso, which opens the door to start more often, I think.

            Brock Peterson is also at 1B at Memphis. Hoping Xavier will write about his experiences again this year.

            • crdswmn says:

              It doesn’t matter to me enough which of Carpenter or Descalso starts the most. Carp has the better bat, but he hasn’t shown he has a better glove.

              I don’t think it matters all that much. It’s the same 25 man roster regardless of the role label. We agree that Adams should make the team instead of Cedeno, so I’m good with whatever label you want to use.

              • Brian Walton says:

                Yes, the names are the same, but the main reason Carpenter is playing second base at all is because they were not satisfied with Descalso’s bat. If the two remain on their same trajectories, I predict Carpenter will play more and more, but Descalso would still have plenty of ABs if he is also backing up Kozma. It isn’t a terrible arrangement, though it favors offense over defense.

            • blingboy says:

              Kind of strange that Peterson would be a beneficiary of Cedeno not making the St. Louis roster, but I agree. Adams promotion creates a spot for him to make the Memphis roster.

              Somehow this got me thinking about what would happen if each of the five ‘reserves’ went down to injury. As rich as the system might be, Chambers replacing Robinson is the only clear move, although I’m sure there will be a veteran MLB ready stand in catcher at AAA.

              What would happen if DD went down? Or Wiggy for that matter. Or Adams? Remember that Cedeno would not be at Memphis, probably.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Over in Cinci, Walt has more vet NRIs, such as old friend Cesar izturis and Emmanuel Burris. There are more names in the mix. For the Birds, there is not a lot of competition.
        Ryan Jackson is the same age as Super Pete; outhit him at Memphis; and was given the SS job there. Is Jackson competition this spring? No, the Cards have outcast him to 3B and said Greg Garcia is now ahead of him at SS, though Garcia is not hitting either. The Cards have gone out of there way to bury Jackson so he is not in the way of Super Pete.
        One of the main competitions is Ronny versus Ronny. Can Cedeno play just well enough to win a roster slot that is his to lose?

  9. JumboShrimp says:

    The long deal for Allen Craig is unusual and may serve to accelerate Adams reaching the majors.

    The Cards already controlled Craig’s services for 3 years. The Cards could have just gone, year to year, as they may be doing with Freese. Why give Craig a special deal? We gain one more year of control, with an option to gain another. The five years of control make Craigmore cost predictable and can make him worth more in trade value. The Red Sox signed Bronson Arroyo to a long term deal and then traded him to the Reds. Years of control are valuable assets for GMs.

    Another advantage to extending Craig is it resolves his salary for 4 or 5 years. This liberates him from pressure to rack up offensive statistics during the next 3 years, to obtain a higher salary. This stability could have an unexpected effect. It could enable the Cards to use Craig as a rover at multiple positions: 1B, RF, and LF, giving more offdays to Holliday and Beltran, while opening up 1B for Matt Adams to play there more.

    Things happen for reasons. If Craig got an unusual deal, there are probably reasons. Rather than holding back Adams, the actual effect of the generous contract for Allen Craig may be to give Adams expanded opportunity to play for St Louis during 2013.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Craig’s deal is not unusual. Players considered central to the team success have gotten them before – Wainwright, Garcia, Molina, etc.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Pujols is a 4th example. Craig seems qualitatively different from these.
        Pujols was a historic player. The Cards wanted to add more years of control when they had some leverage. A fine hitter, Craig is no Albert.
        Molina was unusual owing to defensive prowess. We were unlikely to find Yadier’s equal available as a free agent, so paid a premium to golden handcuff him for more years.
        Veteran pitching is pricey and pitching an injurious job, hence it makes economic sense the Cards buy a few years of control over a pitcher at a reduced price by providing security at an earlier point. With Craig, we already enjoyed 3 more years of control and first basemen are not a rare commodity, so this kind of contract was less likely.

        Craig is either more tradeable with this contract or since his salary is now predetermined, we could more fairly use him as a rover sharing several positions. Both factors offer hope of more at bats for Adams. Craig’s new contract could turn out to be Adams friendly.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I purposely did not cite Pujols as he is on a different plane. I cannot imagine for one second that the Cards signed Craig to ease trading him. He is now considered a core member of the team. Like I have said repeatedly, I firmly believe that Craig’s contract did not change Adams’ situation one bit. Adams still has no place to play everyday.

          • Nutlaw says:

            Agreed. If I were one of Craig’s teammates, I’d be exceptionally wary of signing future contracts with the Cardinals if they were to sign Craig long term and then immediately trade him. It wouldn’t be on the level.

            • JumboShrimp says:

              I doubt Craig is going to be traded this year. He may not be traded at all. Nonetheless, years of team control are assets that any team may need to use in a trade. We loved Ludwick, but when we wanted another pitcher in 2010, Ludwick had to leave. Sometimes you have to trade guys you respect, to serve the needs of the team.
              A lot of people disliked it when Epstein signed Arroyo to a multi year deal and then flipped him to the Reds. Some thought it odd the Marlins signed Buehrle and Reyes, then traded them to Toronto.
              The Cards prefer not to be a soap opera. Yet it is not impossible Craig be traded in 2015, since not a franchise player like Pujols nor a rare defensive stud like Molina. This also may well not happen.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            “Adams still has no place to play everyday.”
            This is what I used to think and why I guessed Adams would have to go to Memphis.
            Then I started thinking about how Craig’s contract could actually help Adams.
            Along these line, today, in the Post Dispatch, Mo mentions how impressive Adams has been and how Craig will play RF today. So it seems like Adams will make the team. This makes sense, because Adams has a ML bat and gives lefty balance to the lineup. Holliday and Beltran can use offdays to stay fresh.
            Wigginton looks like one insurance policy on Freese and not the backup RF, who will be Craig.
            Carpenter can play 2B and backup 3B too, staying out of the way of Adams.
            Right now, those who drew short straws are Ronny and Chambers.

            • crdswmn says:

              Jumbo, you are a lizard of the family Chamaeleontidae.

              • Brian Walton says:

                +1. Perhaps in a past life, Jumbo was a closer, able to put yesterday out of his mind, living only in the present.

                • JumboShrimp says:

                  Brian, one of my many weaknesses is being much too persuaded by your outlooks.
                  You have been so Kozma-doubtful, it seemed the Cards would have to add Ronny. You doubted we would go with Descalso and Carpenter in middle infield, which implies Ronny on the roster versus Matt. Today you were advising :”Adams still has no place to play.”
                  The happy news is Mo has decided Adams has earned a place and is sending Craig out to defend RF today. Craig is happy, Big Matt is happy.

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