Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Cardinals want to give Carlos Beltran a break. But who will they be giving his at-bats, if not Oscar Taveras?
This might be the first Carlos Beltran story about how he played too many games: Rick Hummel wrote an interesting piece Friday about the St. Louis Cardinals' desire to use Beltran a little more sparingly. The specifics are off-screen—Matheny "has admitted he probably needed to rest Beltran more," and Beltran says "a day off 'sometimes is not a bad idea,'" but doesn't get much more precise about 2012—but the broad message is worth considering. If Beltran is hurt, you plug Oscar Taveras in; if Beltran is kid-gloved, though, the plan's different.
We spend so much time complaining about the Cardinals' infielders that it's worth printing the Cardinals' outfield depth chart in full:
|4||Allen Craig/Matt Carpenter|
The Cardinals' fourth outfielder is either their starting first baseman or the guy they hope is their starting second baseman; their fifth outfielder is whichever of Shane Robinson or Adron Chambers won't be hitting .300/.370/.390 in Memphis.
Carpenter is probably the answer whether he's the starting second baseman or not; it's easier to see the Cardinals moving him to get Descalso into the lineup than it is Chamberson getting significant at-bats in an outfield corner. Which means that the knock-on effect of Beltran being treated like an injury-prone outfielder in his mid-thirties is that Allen Craig will probably be stuck without a set position again.
Behind that, and ahead of Taveras, there's only more bother for Craig—the Cardinals' other major-league-ready hitter is Matt Adams, who will not be playing right field unless Mike Matheny deploys an incredibly weird shift.
All things considered, this is an extremely flexible baseball team; regardless of whether Carpenter should be at second or in right field, the Cardinals think he could go there, and Craig possesses the unique ability to look slightly, benignly out-of-position no matter where they put him. If the idea is to give Beltran 140 games instead of 150, they'll soak up the at-bats without issue.
The real pressure point between Chamberson and Taveras isn't one day off for Beltran in the middle of May—it's one of those August stints on the almost-abled-list, where one day becomes four days becomes we'd-put-him-on-the-DL-retroactively-except-he-pinch-hit-on-Monday. Robinson and Chambers, depending on how you think we should evaluate their defense, are collectively just unimpressive enough to make the idea of calling Oscar Taveras up even more appetizing, whether Carlos Beltran is healthy or not.