On the Bubble
Greg Garcia, Jedd Gyorko, Jhonny Peralta
Jhonny Peralta is the early favorite in the Cardinals’ third base competition this spring, but if he has a dreadful spring, it certainly seems feasible that his roster spot could be in jeopardy. That’s because the Cardinals also have Jedd Gyorko, who had a team-best 30 homers last season and might be their best defensive option at third. As they try to limit Matt Carpenter’s movement around the diamond this season, Gyorko will probably rove around the infield even if he’s the Opening Day starter at third, but it’s entirely possible that he could receive extensive playing time considering that he possesses power on a club that probably won’t hit a ton of home runs this season. Greg Garcia will act as the darkhorse in the competition, and his skill set may match up better with the Cardinals’ goals this season than either Gyorko’s or Peralta’s.
It’s certainly possible that all three of these guys could end up making the 25-man roster out of spring training. But with an outfielder over 30 in Dexter Fowler and another two in Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham who have been very injury-prone during their respective professional careers, it may be necessary to carry a fifth outfielder rather than relying on Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong to be emergency backups.
The options remaining on the free agent market are limited–Sam Fuld, Angel Pagan, and Coco Crisp, to name a few–but since GM John Mozeliak openly expressed a desire to add lefthanded-hitting outfielder last month, it’s highly possible that the Cardinals could have another veteran backup occupying a spot on their bench. It remains to be seen whether that player would provide more competition for Pham or the third-place finisher in the third base competition.
The most likely player to be a roster casualty among this trio is Garcia, despite the fact that he’s younger and may have more tools than the other two. The 27-year-old has elite on-base skills–he posted a .393 OBP in 257 plate appearances last season–and he may be the best defensive shortstop on the roster in addition to being very playable at third and second base. But he’s still relatively unproven and is making just over $500,000 this year, compared to Peralta and Gyorko’s multi-millions, so he’s much easier to part ways with. He is out of options this year, though, so the Cardinals will need to keep him in the majors or risk losing him on waivers.
If the Cardinals decide that Gyorko or Garcia is their best option at third, it may make sense for them to eat the $10 million they still owe to Peralta, who hit just .260/.307/.408 last season and is basically limited to third base at this point. That’d open up a roster spot for a fifth outfielder or 13th pitcher and would increase the flexibility of the bench.
In contrast, the only reason for the Cardinals to move Gyorko is if they don’t have a place to keep him and want to get some value back. Since he’s on a relatively team-friendly long-term contract and provides tremendous power, he presumably has some solid trade value.