St. Louis Cardinals: What’s the Plan to Replace Matt Adams?


The St. Louis Cardinals suffered what looks to be a rough loss on Tuesday night, as first baseman Matt Adams suffered a strained right quad that is likely to send him to the disabled list.

The 26-year-old Adams hasn’t exactly been on fire this season, hitting .243/.281/.375 through 144 at-bats. After hitting 17 homers in his first full big-league season and 15 last year, Adams has just four dingers through 43 games this season and is on pace for the lowest home run total of his career (excluding the two homers he hit in brief action as an injury replacement in 2012).

With that said, Adams’ loss will still have consequences. The biggest concern will be Reynolds’ ability to remain a solid threat at the plate while being in the lineup on a much more regular basis. The 31-year-old has been an above-average contributor as a hitter to this point in the season, hitting .250/.314/.406 with three homers and 12 RBI. However, previous evidence does not indicate that he’ll continue to make solid contact when pressed into a starting role.

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Though he’s been a consistent home run threat, hitting at least 20 homers through each of his first seven full big-league seasons, he’s hit no better than .221 in every season since 2010, and his walks per season have also consistently decreased since then. In fairness, so have his infamous strikeouts; 2014 was the first time that Reynolds had not been in the top 10 of his league in strikeouts since his rookie season in 2007. Reynolds led his league in strikeouts for each of his first four full big-league seasons, leading the National League (and the entire majors) in strikeouts each year from 2008 to 2010, then leading the American League in strikeouts with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011.

In addition, Reynolds having more concrete responsibilities at first limits the Cardinals’ defensive flexibility on the bench and will probably necessitate the return to a five-man bench and 12-man pitching staff (which was likely to happen in a few days anyway when outfielder Jon Jay returned from the disabled list). Besides the 16 games he’s played at his natural position of first this year, Reynolds has played five games in left field and one in right while also serving as a backup for Matt Carpenter, starting three games at third base.

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Pete Kozma, who has seemingly gained the ability to play every position on the field after playing almost exclusively at the middle infield spots until this season, can fill some of those responsibilities. However, Kozma can only fill one spot at a time, and with him being the only player on the roster capable of backing up at both shortstop and second base, the Cardinals will need to have either a replacement first baseman (i.e., either Xavier Scruggs or Dan Johnson) around so that they can shift Reynolds over to third if necessary, or they’ll need to find someone to provide additional depth at the other infield positions besides first.

The expected move to replace Adams on the roster would be the recall of Scruggs, who joined the team for two days earlier this month during the overlap between Jay’s placement on the DL and Randal Grichuk‘s return. Scruggs, a natural first baseman who has ended up playing mostly in the outfield at Triple-A Memphis since Johnson joined the Cardinals organization, is already on the 40-man roster, and some believe he has the potential to contribute as a big-league platoon player down the line. However, Scruggs would be rather redundant with Reynolds, as he’s a righthanded hitter who also has some decent power (seven homers in 128 Triple-A at-bats this year, at least 20 home runs through each of his past five minor-league seasons) but struggles to make consistent contact, as he’s hitting just .219 at Memphis. For what it’s worth, he does have a superior .369 on-base percentage at Triple-A, though at least some of that can be attributed to the subpar pitching he’s been facing.

The more logical move for the Cardinals may be to promote the 35-year-old Johnson, who has played in 431 big-league games with the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Toronto Blue Jays over parts of nine seasons. Though he has less defensive flexibility than Scruggs and is limited to first base, he would provide a potential platoon partner for Reynolds, as he’s a lefthanded hitter.

Johnson is most famous for a game-tying home run in the final game of the 2011 regular season which preserved the Tampa Bay Rays’ season and gave them the opportunity to collect a win over the New York Yankees which gave them the American League Wild Card. Over 1,363 at-bats at the big-league level, Johnson is hitting .236/.337/.409 with 57 home runs and 201 RBI. He’s performed decently since joining the Redbirds early on in the season, hitting .256/.330/.415 with two homers and 15 RBI over 82 at-bats.

The one obstacle standing in the way of that move it that Johnson isn’t currently on the 40-man roster. That’s not to say, however, that it would be a devastating loss to designate Triple-A infielders Ty Kelly, hitting .197/.344/.276, or Dean Anna, currently hitting .233/.320/.302, for assignment. If the Cardinals really believe that Johnson is the best platoon partner or backup for Reynolds, they’ll find a way to get him on the team.

One player who could be a very beneficial outside pick-up for the Cardinals could be first baseman/outfielder Travis Ishikawa. The 31-year-old, who is well-known to Cardinals fans for his walk-off home run which allowed the San Francisco Giants to beat the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS and advance to the World Series, was recently designated for assignment by the Giants. A lefthanded batter who has historically been very successful as a pinch hitter, Ishikawa hit .310 in 58 at-bats for Triple-A Sacramento while rehabbing from a back injury this season. He was designated for assignment on Sunday, which means that he’s either currently going through the 72-hour waiver process or will be exposed to it at some point in the coming days.

Next: Cardinals OF Prospect Rowan Wick Becoming a Pitcher