The St. Louis Cardinals have had very strange bench usage this season, in my mind. Maybe strange isn't the right word. They have had more limited bench use than I would have believed, as I thought their bench was pretty solid coming into the season for the first time in quite a while. With Bourjos and Grichuk on the bench in the OF, assuming health of Holliday, Jay, and Heyward I thought that the Cardinals were set. They were until Jay stunk it up this year and Holliday got injured. Now they're down to Grichuk and Heyward, who are red-hot, and Jay/Bourjos mixing and matching in CF or LF depending on the whims of the manager. They have not brought up Tommy Pham or Stephen Piscotty to try to inject even more life there, despite Pham already being on the 40-man roster.
In the infield, everyone knew that Kozma is not a long-term plan at SS, but he's a great defensive SS who can spot start here and there and contribute - like last night playing wonderful defense and getting 37.5% of his season's hit total in one game. Mark Reynolds was supposed to be the corner infield backup, which is a fine role for the 31-year old aging slugger with low contact skills. However, Matt Adams first stunk, then got injured. Who was to take his place? Dean Anna, Aledmys Diaz, Greg Garcia, Ty Kelly, and Xavier Scruggs were all options on the 40-man roster. They brought up catcher Ed Easley. Speaking of catchers, Tony Cruz has been the backup option at catcher all year, again this season.
Granted, we are only 72 games into this season - not quite 45% of the way, but here's how many games and plate appearances those players have.
Pete Kozma has played in 33 games and has 69 plate appearances.
Tony Cruz has played in 29 games and has 53 plate appearances.
Both of those two have been with the big league club all season.
Xavier Scruggs spent 3 games with the Cardinals in May and played in one of them, pinch hitting for 1 PA. He then has spent since June 16th with the big league club and has played in 4 games, accumulating 11 more PA. (5 games, 12 PA) Greg Garcia has spent since June 18th with the Cardinals and has played in 5 games collecting 8 PA. Cody Stanley was only up for 3 days and he pinch hit in all 3 games, despite being a slightly worse hitter than Easley (see below) in the minors up to this point in his career. Dean Anna was with the Cardinals for just one game and pinch hit once in his only game with the club. He was then immediately reassigned to Memphis.
Ed Easley spent from May 27th through June 8th with the Cardinals and played in all of 2 games getting 3 PA. During his time in the majors, Tony Cruz got 7 games played and 10 PA, despite Cruz being an established .223/.269/.303/.572 hitter in the majors, good for 42% BELOW league average. Ed Easley has very little to go on in the majors, in fact, just those three PA, but in the minors Easley is a career .266/.343/.371/.714 hitter - and has pounded lefties for a .333/.428/.478/.906 line in the last 5 years and 397 PA. Why did he possibly not get a spot start vs. a lefty when the 2015 Cardinals have a .233/.311/.355/.665 line against lefties? Why didn't he get those PH appearances Cruz got when Cruz is a proven commodity of pure inability to hit and Easley has a track record of hitting well?
In any case, the Cardinals' bench could use a boost. Enter, Ben Zobrist. Ben Zobrist is past his prime. From 2009-2012, Zobrist played in over 600 games as a super-utility man for the Tampa Bay Rays. He collected over 1,000 total bases in that time, hit .268/.369/.458/.827 good for 28% better than league average. While that's not incredible, it's really good for someone who, in his career has been a +10.3 UZR/150 defensively at 2B in over 4,000 innings, been just a -1.9 UZR/150 (slightly below average) shorstop in over 1,700 innings; has been a slightly above average left and center fielder in 445 1/3 and 203 innings, respectively; and been a great (22.0 UZR/150) right fielder in just over 2,300 innings played there.
As of right now, he is on the Oakland Athletics and is in the last year of his deal, scheduled to make about $4M the remainder of this 2015 season. While not quite as good as he once was, he offers an immediate veteran presence on this team that is good at getting on base and good at playing multiple positions (2B/LF/RF) on defense. The only problem with Zobrist is that he has not played 1B and has not been a + fielder at 3B (in limited time) in his career. In order to make this trade, the Cards would have to believe he could be. Zobrist is still hitting .252/.343/.449 - good for 23% above league average in 2015. However, once a positive baserunner, he has not been this year, nor has he been a + defensively overall, in fact he's been downright bad in the field this year.
As a guy I once really wanted to be a Cardinal, quite badly - I think that Zobrist is past his prime and unless the Cardinals get him for cheap (cheaper than they got Masterson last year) I don't see him being a good move going forward.