Report: St. Louis Cardinals Sign Free Agent Utility Man Ty Wigginton

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

In the same week the Cardinals trade away lefthanded-hitting utility man Skip Schumaker, the club signs righthanded-hitting utility man Ty Wigginton.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has tweeted that the St. Louis Cardinals have signed veteran Ty Wigginton to a two-year contract.

An offseason that began with the Cardinals discussing middle-infield upgrades via trade and free agency has taken a step back and to the margins. At the winter meetings, St. Louis filled one of its self-professed needs with lefthanded reliever Randy Choate. After Skip Schumaker's representation approached the Cardinals and requested a trade, the team obliged this week, sending the veteran infielder/outfielder to the Dodgers in return for Double-A shortstop Jake Lemmerman. Today, the club filled the void left by Schumaker on the 25-man roster and the bench by signing Wigginton.

Wigginton has had a long big-league career with many stops. He broke into the majors at age 24 with the Mets in 2002. In 2004, New York dealt him to the Pirates. After the 2005 season, Wigginton signed as a free agent with the Devil Rays, who traded him during the 2007 season to the Astros. After the 2008 season, Wigginton signed as a free agent with the Orioles. He signed with the Rockies for the 2010 season. Last year, he played for the Phillies.

The move is one with versatility ostensibly in mind, as Wigginton is a classic dull utility knife--the sort favored by retired Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. While it is true that Wigginton has played third base, first base, second base, the corner outfield positions, and even a smidgeon of shortstop over the course of his career, he is little more than a corner infielder nowadays. The following chart shows Wigginton's innings played by defensive position throughout his career.

WIGGINTON DEFENSIVE INNINGS LOG (CAREER)

Year

Club

3B

1B

2B

LF

RF

SS

2002

Mets

100.2

64.0

84.0

3.0

1.0

-

2003

Mets

1329.0

-

-

-

-

-

2004

Mets/Pirates

931.1

41.0

183.2

-

-

-

2005

Pirates

305.0

23.0

8.1

-

-

-

2006

Rays

274.1

329.2

328.1

39.0

45.2

-

2007

Rays/Astros

647.1

134.0

321.0

1.0

1.0

-

2008

Astros

652.0

-

-

247.0

-

-

2009

Orioles

317.2

333.0

39.1

6.0

-

13.0

2010

Orioles

166.0

787.0

306.0

-

-

-

2011

Rockies

520.1

191.0

-

139.0

46.2

-

2012

Phillies

175.2

471.1

-

48.0

-

-

Career

All

5419.1

2374.0

1270.2

483.0

94.1

13.0

For his career, Wigginton has hit for a respectable slash line of .263/.324/.438/.762. The veteran's career .330 wOBA is healthy, too. Wigginton's .762 career OPS equates to a 99 OPS+. His offensive production, including baserunning, gives him a career wRC+ of 99 as well. In recent seasons, his batting has not been anywhere near what his career numbers have been.

WIGGINTON BATTING STATS (CAREER)

Year

Club

G

PA

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

2002

Mets

46

127

6

18

.302

.354

.526

.378

134

2003

Mets

156

633

11

71

.255

.318

.396

.313

88

2004

Mets/Pirates

144

545

17

66

.261

.324

.433

.324

94

2005

Pirates

57

171

7

25

.258

.324

.465

.341

107

2006

Rays

122

486

24

79

.275

.330

.498

.350

112

2007

Rays/Astros

148

604

22

67

.278

.333

.459

.343

107

2008

Astros

111

429

23

58

.285

.350

.526

.376

129

2009

Orioles

122

436

11

41

.273

.314

.400

.314

84

2010

Orioles

154

649

22

76

.248

.312

.415

.318

93

2011

Rockies

130

446

15

47

.242

.315

.416

.320

87

2012

Phillies

125

360

11

43

.235

.314

.375

.302

87

Career

All

1315

4886

169

591

.263

.324

.438

.330

99

As the chart shows, Wigginton's careers numbers are bolstered by his younger years. Wigginton hasn't had an above-average offensive season since 2008, when he was 30 years old. While posting below-average batting seasons each of the last four seasons, Wigginton has played his home games in hitter-friendly ballparks. Now, he will call pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium home, which makes the likelihood of him hitting well all the lesser.

Wigginton does have a platoon split of the type the Cardinals were seemingly after in targeting a righthanded bench bat. Just as Schumaker should never have been used against a lefty, manager Mike Matheny should attempt to avoid having Wigginton face righthanded pitchers whenever possible.

WIGGINTON BATTING SPLITS (CAREER)

Split

G

PA

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

wOBA

wRC+

vs. LHP

611

1263

52

150

.270

.354

.456

.351

112

Overall

1315

4886

169

591

.263

.324

.438

.330

99

vs. RHP

1157

3448

117

441

.260

.311

.431

.322

93

The Cardinals wanted a righthanded bench bat. They got one. Wigginton isn't a good bet to hit above .250, post an OBP above .320, or slug for more than .420. Bill James projects a .241/.314/.379 season from Wigginton, which would work out to a .307 wOBA. In addition to his offensive shortcomings, Wigginton should also probably not play a position other than first base or third base, which means he probably shouldn't ever play over Matt Carpenter. Nonetheless, Wigginton fills a perceived need that the farm system could not: righthanded bench bat. Hopefully, fortune smiles on the Cardinals and that is all Wigginton is. Ideally, Wigginton will primarily pinch-hit against lefthanded relievers and rarely play in the field. If this is how he is used, this move will not help or hurt the club very much.

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