St. Louis Cardinals

Smaller Adams seeks larger role with Cardinals

Matt Adams avoided arbitration with the St. Louis Cardinals by signing a $2.8 million, one-year contract.
Matt Adams avoided arbitration with the St. Louis Cardinals by signing a $2.8 million, one-year contract. Associated Press

If there’s one St. Louis Cardinal without a defined role heading into the season, it’s the trimmed-down Matt Adams.

Adams, of course, has bounced along this road before. Playing time hasn’t always been there for the man often referred to as “Big City.”

Shoulder and leg injuries have quieted Adams’ thunderous swing the past two seasons. Adams, too, hasn’t always been in the best of shape.

But Adams, 28, has a new strategy. Having shed 25 pounds during the offseason, he is determined to be lighter on his feet and restart his career.

Whether there’s a fit for Adams is debatable. That’s the case even after he signed a one-year, $2.8-million contract Thursday that avoided arbitration. He made $1.65 million in 2016.

Adams has one position, first base, and that’s a problem with the way the Cardinals roster is currently constructed. They’ve handed first base to Matt Carpenter, an everyday guy with superior offensive ability and average defensive skills.

The left-handed-hitting Adams has built a reputation for being a one-dimensional offensive contributor. He mashes right-handed pitching at the rate of .284/.331/.480. But he’s mustered just a .212/.243/.342 slash against left-handers.

The news of Adams’ weight loss has been received in lukewarm fashion by Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak.

Mozeliak, speaking recently on KMOX Radio, acknowledged that losing weight is usually a good thing for most people.

But for a baseball player like Adams, Mozeliak wasn’t sure. He expressed concern that while Adams could be more fit, his power might take a hit.

And when it comes to speculating on Adams’ role, Mozeliak is thinking in terms of him being a spot starter and providing punch off the bench. Adams surely wants to be more than that.

It was surprising to hear that Mozeliak hadn’t talked to Adams this offseason. Mozeliak explained that he typically has very little communication with players in the winter.

Wouldn’t it have made sense for Adams and Mozeliak to have a discussion about Adams’ offseason fitness agenda? Shouldn’t the GM be aware of things like this before they happen? Shouldn’t Adams have received the team’s blessing before traveling down a road that clearly has not thrilled Mozeliak?

Winning heals all ills, and if the Cardinals manage to break out of the gate quickly and sustain solid play throughout the season, no one will remember this “Weightgate” situation.

Adams could be an intriguing option for a team with a first-base vacancy. The Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals come to mind. The Cardinals could use some outfield depth or another reliever, and a trade of Adams could get them that and provide Adams the fresh start he’s seeking.

However, the apparent lack of interest in two slugging free-agent first basemen who are similar to Adams, but with far better track records, doesn’t elevate expectations of a deal being struck.

Mark Trumbo led the American League in home runs with 47, but struck out 170 times. Chris Carter topped the National League in homers with 41 and fanned 206 times. Both remain unemployed and likely won’t receive the huge paydays they covet.

Adams’ modest salary could be his ticket out of St. Louis. Teams could bank on the hope Adams has more to offer with his new physique and opportunity.

Adams could find new life in St. Louis if the Cardinals opt to trade third baseman Jhonny Peralta. A rebound season by the 34-year-old Peralta could interest an AL team at the trade deadline, and Peralta’s salary of $10 million wouldn’t be an impediment to a deal.

In that scenario, Carpenter could play third base against right-handed pitching, with Adams manning first base. But the Cardinals seem intent on putting Carpenter at first and leaving him there.

Unless they have a change of heart, Adams’ time in St. Louis is running out.

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm