Fans are freaked out with the belief that Matt Adams is somehow doing a lot better with his new club than he did here. But is he? His batting average is four points higher with Atlanta than it was in St. Louis and his on-base percentage is nine points better.
His slugging percentage, fueled by 10 home runs, is where the difference is noticeable. But is that because Atlanta has a better hitting coach or a manager that knows how to deploy him? Or is it because he’s now playing in a ballpark that favors hitters?
Maybe it’s because 13 of Atlanta’s last 16 games have been against horrible teams, including National League East rivals the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins. The Braves also have played a surprisingly terrible San Francisco Giants squad. So the pitching he’s faced hasn’t been great.
I don’t mean to belittle Adams’ accomplishments. It’s certainly true that the Redbirds could use the offensive production he has provided for his new club. But there is no way to prove he would be doing just as well if he was still playing here. Plus, the one undeniable factor in this whole equation is that Adams had no in St. Louis.
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While some folks seem to think that Matt Carpenter, also a left-handed hitter, was moved to first base because the Cardinals front office was trying to punish Adams, the truth of the matter is that Carpenter was moved because he was a terrible third baseman. Carpenter moved to first because, with little range and an inaccurate throwing arm, it was the best place to try to hide his defensive liabilities.
Maybe we can debate if it would have been a better idea to trade Carpenter instead of Adams. But there really was no way to keep them both on the roster.
While we’re all focused on what Adams has done since the trade, what about what Carpenter has done? Over the last two weeks, Carpenter is batting .415 with a .556 on-base percentage and an .829 slugging percentage. He’s hit three homers and eight doubles in that span while driving in 11. Adams over the past two weeks is hitting .333 with four homers, three doubles, a .646 slugging percentage and 12 driven in. Would the Redbirds actually be better if they kept Adams and traded Carpenter? I don’t think so.
Let’s pretend the Cardinals kept Adams and forced Carpenter back to third base to make room. Not only would the defense be even worse than it has been so far this season, but that move would edge the team’s most consistent hitter out of the batting order.
Jedd Gyorko is batting .290 with 10 homers, 11 doubles and 29 batted in for the 2017 season. I’d hate to see where the Cardinals would be without his contributions.
Complaining that the Cardinals traded Adams with Carpenter manning first base is similar to fans complaining that the club dealt away Leon Durham and he had several good seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Never mind that the Redbirds already had Keith Hernandez at first base.
Let’s just be happy for Matt Adams that he’s found a place where he could have the opportunity to play every day. It’s not going to last forever because regular Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is going to come off the disabled list and reclaim his starting role. They’re already talking in Atlanta about ways to keep Adams in the lineup when Freeman returns including, gulp, putting Adams in left field. Good luck with that.
Another consideration has been moving Freeman to third base, a position he hasn’t played since high school. Those are ideas that sound good on paper, but they’re likely to be disastrous on the field. It’s a lot easier to give up runs with bad defense than it is to score them in major-league games. Cardinals fans are acutely aware of that this season.
If Atlanta is really convinced that this is the real Matt Adams and he must be kept in the lineup at all costs, how about trading Freeman to St. Louis for Carpenter, and he can go back to third base. Or I’d trade Gyorko for Freeman if they’d prefer.
The problem with the Redbirds isn’t that they traded Adams, it’s that they did such a lousy job of roster construction that they ended up with a team that included two left-handed batting, mediocre fielding first basemen who can’t play effectively anywhere else. And they couldn’t afford the lack of flexibility with 12 to 13 pitchers in the big leagues at any one time and a bench spot that was being taken up by a seldom-used backup catcher.
The Birds solved their problem and added a young talent in 19-year-old Juan Yepez who is batting .275 with six home runs and six stolen bases in seven tries playing Class A baseball. So this is a trade that really worked out for everyone involved. And those are the best deals, even if fans want to see their team swap a bag of sawdust for a perennial all-star or else they’re not happy. It just doesn’t work that way.