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Randal Grichuk’s surgery a reminder of the value of depth

The team’s outfield situation continues to be an area of risk.

St. Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Brian Garfinkel/Getty Images

If you missed it, news broke yesterday that Randal Grichuk had knee surgery at the end of last season, removing loose cartilage that had been bothering him since April. The outfielder said he wasn’t sure if the soreness, irritation, and clicking he experienced since then had limited his movements in the outfield, but it’s easy to imagine it had. The lower body is very important to hitting too, and it might partially explain his troubles throughout 2016 at the plate as well.

While indications are Grichuk should be able to have a normal Spring Training, it is an uneasy reminder of the fact that he doesn’t have the best injury history. He served two DL trips in 2015, one for a strained lower back, the other for a sprained throwing elbow. While those are his only Major League DL trips in his short MLB career, he also struggled to stay healthy in the minors, as he only played 117 games combined from 2010 to 2011, due to wrist, thumb, and knee issues. This was his second consecutive off-season surgery, after having Sports Hernia surgery last year.

Tommy Pham currently fills the role as the team’s fourth outfielder. The problem there is that Pham is an All-World injury risk, averaging just 300 plate appearances a year since 2009, the first year he began the season in a full-season league. After that comes Jose Martinez, who both public projection systems project to be worth just half a win if given 600 plate appearances in the 2017 season. This news just re-enforces the fact that the team needs to make an addition to the outfield. Between Pham and Grichuk’s injury history, they could use a capable one that can play everyday if needed for a stretch.

With that, I’ll take a moment to one again support bringing Brandon Moss in the fold. While I previously wrote an article on Moss and what he would bring to the 2017 team, he and several players like him are still stuck on the free agent market awaiting deals, perhaps a sign that the market for sluggers has over-corrected. As such, Moss may be a bargain. While I assumed he might require a two-year deal when I first supported Moss, at this point he’ll almost certainly only receive a one-year deal. If the Cardinals were the team handing out that one year deal, it would keep an outfield spot open for Harrison Bader in 2018.

While I invite you to read my previous article for a full breakdown of why Moss makes a good fit, the reasons include: a left-handed bat that complements Grichuk as well as Stephen Piscotty, a lack of need for another center-fielder, and some nice pop that will make for a great pinch-hitter in late-game situations when not starting. He also plays better defense in a corner than you might have expected, as he’s so far performed as a solidly above-average corner-outfielder on defense in his career.

At the same time, he remains the best remaining free agent outfielder likely to take a deal as a part-time player. Another popular option has been Sam Fuld, though unless the team is planning on liberally using him as a late-inning defensive replacement for Piscotty, I’m not sure what role he would hold on the 2017 Cardinals. He also hit for just a 61 wRC+ in the latest season, which is Pete Kozma levels of offense. Steamer projects him as a below replacement level player going forward, implying that Jose Martinez is a notable in-house upgrade over Fuld.

The Cardinals have shown clearly the value of depth over the last couple of years. In terms of arms and infielders, I’d say they’re set. The outfield is a different situation. With an injury-prone starter, and an All-World injury prone fourth outfielder, things could get ugly. Brandon Moss is the final piece of the picture this roster needs.