Matt Adams is hitting .304/.333/.565 in spring—with Michael Wacha gone he's settled in as the spring training hero by default—and the St. Louis Cardinals still have a two-year contract with Ty Wigginton's name on it. It shouldn't take spring training sample sizes, obviously, to make up your mind about the Ty Wigginton contract or Matt Adams's ability to hit, but his power surge (and Wigginton's 4-36 start) have pushed the Cardinal offseason's weirdest transaction back into the news for people who hibernated through it.
In fact, in case you hibernated through it, a brief summary:
The Cardinals signed Ty Wigginton
They didn't just sign Ty Wigginton: They signed him for two years, to stabilize their payroll in case he had a huge breakout in his age-35 season. Ty Wigginton is a one-dimensional slugger inasmuch as that's the thing people pay him to do, for some reason; his OPS+ last topped league average in 2008.
World markets immediately collapsed
Nothing scares the world markets quite like irrationality and unpredictability. At one point soon after the deal Ty Wigginton's $5 million contract was worth 50 pre-crisis dollars; in an ill-conceived forex move Kyle Lohse signed briefly with the Harare Mugabes.
Matt Adams was still a really good hitter
Matt Adams's ZiPS projection was .264/.315/.418 in 2012, which was better than Ty Wigginton's. Then Ty Wigginton hit below his projection and got another year older, while Matt Adams hit slightly worse than Wigginton in 91 MLB plate appearances but also hit .329/.362/.624 in 276 Memphis plate appearances.
Matt Adams and Ty Wigginton are both big slow guys who can't play third base
Which is not Matt Adams's fault, since nobody ever asked him to play third base.
Can the Cardinals fit both players on their roster?
Derrick Goold and some other people nearer the Cardinals than I am are suggesting Adams might make the team anyway; over the weekend Goold talked about the Cardinals' Holliday-Craig-Adams lineup, in which Allen Craig moves to right field, Matt Carpenter starts at second base, and Adams serves as the de facto backup outfielder.
I like this move! I've liked it from the start. Which is to say that the problem with Adams making the roster in 2013 isn't Matt Adams, it's Ty Wigginton. Why did the Cardinals sign Wigginton if they were going to keep Adams on the roster? In a 12-man-bullpen world, there's not much room for two backup first basemen, two backup pinch hitters, two backup big slow guys.
It's worth mentioning, also, that Ronny Cedeno started in that same lineup. Because here's what the Cardinals' bench is set to look like, as of this instant, in the Wiggintams configuration:
Without Ronny Cedeno, Daniel Descalso—who will already be working out as Matt Carpenter's caddy at second base—finds himself a very busy man. (Granted, he's used to doing his bit.) Ronny Cedeno's received poor marks for his defense, but the Cardinals also seemed increasingly reluctant to play Descalso at short last year.
More obviously, it creates a glut of corner-position backups; on days when Carpenter isn't playing second base he'll still be around in his old job, standing in for the Cardinals' interchangeable group of hitters and not playing third as much as we expect (hopefully.)
It's true that the Cardinals' impressive flexibility in the lineup makes this possible; in a way they're just transferring some of the utility-style jobs from the bench to the lineup, where Craig and Carpenter will take them up. And it's truer still that wondering whether Adams fits on this team is burying the lede. No matter who's in that last spot on the bench, the question has always been what role Wigginton plays on this team. It's not the same role Matt Adams would play, it's just that Adams is the nearest physical resemblance.