If you were expecting the Cardinals were going to claim and trade for Matt Adams before the waiver deadline in August, you aren’t fooling anybody. This is an entirely unexpected move and not a totally unwelcome one either. I doubt many of you forgot who Adams was, but to refresh your memory, he was drafted in the 23rd round by the Cardinals in 2009. He rose through the ranks quickly, making the team in 2012 at the age of 23. He became a part-time player in 2013 and a full-time starter in 2014, essentially being a quintessential Cardinal - the average player.
Injuries derailed his 2015 and he went back to becoming a part-time player in 2016, as his offense just wasn’t quite good enough for a full-time first baseman. In 2017, he became a bench player, but was put out of position in LF, which forced John Mozeliak’s hand so he traded Adams for Juan Yepez (still in the system and young enough to where he could become somebody.) He got hot with the Braves, causing Freddie Freeman to volunteer to play 3B, but ultimately returned back to roughly around his career level by the end of the year. He’s followed a similar trajectory with the Nationals this year, with his numbers being dragged down by how he’s played in August.
Adams can serve a few purposes on the Cardinals team in 2018. It remains to be seen HOW he will be used, but when the return is just cash, it’s hard to say this is anything but a positive move. Adams will presumably slot in as the first pinch-hitter off the bench against right-handed pitchers, displacing Greg Garcia. Garcia for his career is a 103 wRC+ against RHP, but Adams is quite a bit better with a career 125 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers.
There is a possibility he will be used for more than that though. Since the Cards are stacked with right-handed bats, and thus are slightly weak offensively against the same handedness pitcher, the Cards could improve their offense by starting Adams at 1B and moving Matt Carpenter to 3B whenever the Cardinals face a RHP. The Cards will take a hit defensively - Jedd Gyorko is a better defender than Carpenter - but Adams is quite a bit better offensively than Gyorko is against right-handed pitchers exclusively. So this move gives the Cardinals more options to play with at the very least.
Since Adams won’t be on the team until tomorrow, it hasn’t been announced who he will be replacing on the 25 man roster. Technically speaking, he is replacing Patrick Wisdom, who got sent down today to make room for Carlos Martinez getting activated off the disabled list. But presumably a pitcher will go down tomorrow when Adams officially joins the team. The Cardinals still have Yairo Munoz hanging around and that will require another roster move, unless they just wait until September 1, which is a possibility. (Note: Dexter Fowler is going on the 60 day DL to make room for Adams on the 40 man roster, but who he replaces on the 25 man roster is still in question)
I’m still pretty shocked that Adams is back on the Cardinals again, but if utilized correctly, he can be a valuable piece the rest of the season.