Tommy Edman and Edmundo Sosa are practically the same player. They are both excellent defenders, they make a lot of contact, they neither walk nor strike out very often, and they both have limited power. Their similarities are clear to anyone who watched the St. Louis Cardinals this year, but their statistics also demonstrate this.
Edmundo Sosa batted .271 while Tommy Edman batted .262. Sosa slugged .389 while Edman slugged .387. Edman’s ISO was .125 while Sosa’s ISO was .118. Sosa walked in 5.2% of his plate appearances while Edman walked in 5.5% of his. Edman struck out less (13.7% strikeout rate), but Sosa’s 19.3% strikeout rate was still lower than the league average strikeout rate of 23.2%
The similarities go even further. Edman’s sprint speed ranked in the 92nd percentile while Sosa’s ranked in the 98th. Edman ranked in the 98th percentile in Outs Above Average and Sosa ranked slightly lower, but he was still in the 89th percentile. Both players play up the middle and Edman is just one year older than Sosa.
The main difference between Edman’s 91 wRC+ and Sosa’s 104 wRC+ was hit by pitches. Sosa’s OBP (.346) was much higher than Edman’s (.308) because Sosa got beaned 17 times and Edman was only plunked six times. This is despite the fact that Edman took more than twice as many plate appearances as Sosa. Hit by pitches tend to fluctuate from year to year, so even though there is a group of players that consistently maintains a high amount of HBPs each season, it is unlikely that Sosa’s OBP will receive a similar boost in 2022.
Because the two players are so similar, the Cardinals must decide if they want to fill their middle infield with the same profile in 2022. This almost certainly would not last the full season, but it could be the starting middle infield for a decent chunk of the year. The team has publicly supported Paul DeJong, so he could be the ‘starter’ or the 1A to Sosa’s 1B on the depth chart. However, it was Sosa that started the Wild Card game, not DeJong. Even though the front office is rallying behind DeJong, what happened on the field in 2021 told a different story.
At second base, Nolan Gorman will almost certainly be with the team in 2022, though he may not begin the year in St. Louis. The Cardinals may keep him down at the beginning of the season to earn an extra year of control and also give him more time to work at second base. He is still 21 years old and has played just 76 games at Triple-A. Still, once he arrives in St. Louis, he will be a starter. There is no reason to have him on the roster if he is sitting on the bench. If the DH comes to the NL then he could see some time there, but it is more than likely that he will be playing second base.
At that point, the Cardinals must decide if they want to have two practically identical players on the roster. Sosa is right-handed and Edman hits better right-handed, so there is not much of a platoon option available. With Edman’s success at second base and his upbringing as a shortstop in the minor leagues, he can probably play shortstop in the majors. His skills at the position are not as proven as Sosa’s though. It is a different story at the plate as Edman has a longer track record of success.
This leaves a dilemma for the Cardinals. Somebody has to start at shortstop. This could be Edman, Sosa, or DeJong. Then, one or both of Edman and Sosa will be a utility infielder once Gorman reaches the majors. It would be smart to keep some depth in case Gorman struggles to make the transition, but eventually the Cardinals will need to decide if they have a long term shortstop among the aforementioned trio, and if they want to keep two players with an identical profile.
With neither Edman nor Sosa profiling as much more than 90-95 wRC+ hitters, they may be best suited to be utility infielders. This creates a roster redundancy that is most easily solved with a trade. Both players are under team control for a while, so it’s not like the team needs to trade either one of them, but a better hitting shortstop is likely on the wish list in the not-too-distant future.
For a new shortstop to come in, Edman or Sosa will need to be cleared out of the way while the survivor becomes the utilityman. I don’t really see a scenario in which Gorman, Edman, Sosa, and DeJong are all still on the team by the start of the 2023 season. A DeJong trade could happen. but with a $9 million salary in 2023 and then a pair of team options that grow in value, it is possible that opposing teams would rather have Sosa or Edman as a cheap utilityman. Additionally, DeJong’s bat has a higher ceiling than Edman’s or Sosa’s, so the Cardinals may hold onto him in case he figures things out at the plate.
There has been a lot of talk among Cardinals fans that DeJong might get the boot this offseason. I think it’s more likely that the team solves its roster redundancy by trading either Edman or Sosa. Neither one is going to be a bench bat that is brought in as a late-game pinch hitter. Their value comes in defensive ability and versatility. Having two players like that is nice, but it limits hitting ability on the bench. Instead of having two utility infielders, the Cardinals would be smart to have a lefty bat available for better match-up options. The emergence of Edmundo Sosa has put pressure on Tommy Edman and one of them will probably be playing in a different uniform by the start of the 2023 season.