The Cardinals have had a bit of a bad run when it comes to injuries. Brandon Moss is on the disabled list. Brayan Pena joined him yesterday. Jhonny Peralta has yet to crack the lineup after hurting his thumb. Of course the biggest blow came yesterday, when Matt Carpenter hurt his oblique swinging a bat. Whatever the Cardinals were hoping to hear this morning, they did not hear it, and now Carpenter, the Cardinals’ best player and legitimate MVP candidate so far this year, will head to the disabled list. The team has called up a third catcher, Michael McKenry to replace him.
McKenry is a fairly decent hitter for a catcher, having spent time in the majors with the Rockies and Pirates as well as time in the Red Sox and Rangers organizations. In nearly 1,000 big league plate appearances, McKenry has a .239/.319/.407 line with a 95 wRC+. The 31-year-old hits right-handed and after yesterday’s addition of Alberto Rosario, the Cardinals now have three catchers on the active roster.
It was just a week ago, the Cardinals seemed to have a glut of depth all over the diamond. At first base, the team had Brandon Moss and Matt Adams. A crowded infield included Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, Aledmys Diaz, Kolten Wong, and Jedd Gyorko. In the outfield, Opening Day center fielder Randal Grichuk was stuck down in Memphis while Kolten Wong and Tommy Pham were both playing center field. The Cardinals seemed to have 12 players who could be legitimate starters on a major league team.
Today, that number has dwindled as the Cardinals lost their two most productive hitters in 2016 in Brandon Moss and Matt Carpenter. Carpenter’s production cannot be replaced by anyone on the Cardinals roster, but while the depth is dwindling, the Cardinals should still have adequate players at every position.
Kolten Wong will resume his job at second base with Gyorko there against lefties. Assuming Peralta comes back, he can stay at third base with Diaz continuing to man shortstop. At first base, Adams is in position to get a lot of playing time. Jedd Gyorko has been getting some time at first although perhaps with a healthy Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk back it might be time to revisit Matt Holliday at first base against lefty starters to allow Gyorko to play his natural position of second base and load the lineup with right-handed hitters.
It isn’t yet clear how long Carpenter will be on the disabled list. Oblique injuries tend to take 1-2 months to heal so unless this move is more precautionary with the built-in All-Star Break as an excuse, the Cardinals will likely be without Carpenter for some time. Having lost three in a row to the Pirates has many asking whether the Cardinals could compete the rest of the season, and that was before the Carpenter injury.
The Cardinals are certainly in playoff contention now, but these next few weeks now have greater importance when it comes to providing the team reinforcements. If the Cardinals are still in the race at the end of the month, and they should be given the amount of talent still on the active roster, it will be interesting to see how far John Mozeliak will go this year to pursue a playoff spot. Regardless, Matt Carpenter’s presence and production at the top of the lineup will be sorely missed.