I sure hope the St. Louis Cardinals know what they're doing with the development of Oscar Taveras.
I found it odd that the Redbirds would send Taveras back to Class AAA Memphis soon after he arrived in the big leagues. I found it odder that general manager John Mozeliak felt the need to take a poke at Taveras, criticizing the 21-year-old player for not making the decision to send him back to Class AAA Memphis tougher.
It's true that Taveras was only batting .189 when he was shipped out. But he certainly didn't look over-matched at the plate. Taveras was hitting the ball hard and, with a little bit of luck, he could have easily been hitting considerably higher. He had seven hits in 37 at-bats. Two more hits in that tiny sample size would have made his average .243, three would make it .270 and four would have made it .297. Are we really supposed to believe that two or three hits was the difference between staying and going?
Taveras was hitting .325 in Memphis prior to his arrival in St. Louis. He's collected more than 1,800 plate appearances in the minor leagues. What's left to prove? Does it do more for Taveras' development to let him punish Class AAA pitchers or would it make more sense to expose him to major league pitching?
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I don't buy the argument that there is no place for Taveras to play in St. Louis. The Cardinals ordered Taveras to be placed in centerfield when he was in Memphis the first time, presumably to prepare him to play center in St. Louis. Why was he never given a chance to get some at-bats there?
The only plausible explanation as to why St. Louis would send Taveras back at this point is to try to prevent him from reaching Super Two status by limiting his major league service time. And, now that they've let the genie out of the bottle, I'm not sure it's such a good idea to try to put it back.
If the Cardinals really believe that Taveras is going to be the club's next superstar, is it wise to be cheap with him at the front end of his career when he has no financial leverage? Should things develop like we hope, the team will likely try to sign him to a long-term contract extension well before Taveras could hit the open market. If they're successful, his arbitration and free agency clocks will matter a lot less than good will.
But if the Cardinals get on Taveras' bad side they could have a situation like that with Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins who has been content to collect year-to-year checks through arbitration on the road to free agency instead of committing to his original team for an extended period.
It just doesn't make any sense to me for the team to not only ship out Taveras so soon but to insult him as he boards the Memphis shuttle.