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Inbox: Will Cards fill bench role with Robinson?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch fields Cardinals fans' questions
February 8, 2019

ST. LOUIS --  See that dateline? It's will be changing soon. I'm scheduled to report to Jupiter, Fla., along with pitchers and catchers, next week for the start of Cardinals Spring Training. But in an effort to delay packing a little while longer, let me grab another handful of reader

ST. LOUIS --  See that dateline? It's will be changing soon. I'm scheduled to report to Jupiter, Fla., along with pitchers and catchers, next week for the start of Cardinals Spring Training. But in an effort to delay packing a little while longer, let me grab another handful of reader questions to tackle in the final Inbox of the offseason.
I'm concerned that Drew Robinson (career .186 batting average vs. RHP) has passed Yairo Muñoz (.280 vs RHP) on the depth chart just because he hits left-handed. Is management looking at these metrics and not just which box he steps into?
-- Scott L. (@snbleigh), via Twitter

The front office and coaching staff will be looking at all sorts of factors as they finalize their 25-man roster ahead of Opening Day. They won't feel bound to a player simply because he hits from the left side; but if all else is close to equal, it would likely be a tiebreaking factor.
While Robinson did post a .170 batting average against right-handers in 47 Major League games last season, he's had more success against righties previously. In 102 games last season -- which includes time in Triple- A and the Majors -- Robinson had an .866 OPS against right-handers. The Cardinals' roster isn't exactly balanced, so that will help Robinson's chances of breaking camp with the big league club. It helps, too, that he has as much defensive versatility as Munoz.
:: Submit a question to the Cardinals Inbox ::
Any time frame when we'll see Genesis Cabrera in 2019? I know he's the player to watch for this season.
-- Levi B. (@L_Brug92), via Twitter

You're astute in picking Cabrera as a guy to watch this season. For those unfamiliar with this lefty, he came to the organization through last summer's Tommy Pham deal and dominated in the Dominican Winter League when asked to pitch out of the 'pen. Over 20 appearances there, Cabrera allowed two earned runs and struck out 21 in 14 1/3 innings.
He's pitched only one game at the Triple-A level, so look for him to start the season there. If he continues on his current trajectory, Cabrera could push his way onto the big league roster by midseason, likely finding his fit as a reliever.
What are the most overrated concerns for the Cardinals and the most underrated concerns?
-- David J. (@David_J_STL), via Twitter

Good question, and I'll offer a few for each of those two categories.
As far as overrated concerns, I'll start with Marcell Ozuna's health. It's wise to be skeptical about how healthy he'll be coming into camp. But panic over how that will affect his regular-season production may be overstated. He was far from 100 percent in 2018 but gutted through the season and finished with decent numbers.

Also, I don't seem to be as concerned about Matt Carpenter's transition back to third base as others. No, he's not going to be a superb defender there. But he should be capable, and having a Gold Glove first baseman (Paul Goldschmidt) will make everyone in the infield better. For me, that outweighs Carpenter's vulnerability.
On the underrated side, count me among those who still have questions about the Cardinals' offense. Plugging Goldschmidt in will be a boon, no doubt. But will there be enough production from the bottom half of the order? Yadier Molina is aging (even if it hasn't shown so far). Dexter Fowler has more to prove than anyone on the roster. And while Kolten Wong and Harrison Bader bring dazzling defensive ability, it's hard to predict what they'll do at the plate. There are potential holes here.
Additionally, I'm still stuck on the uncertainty surrounding the 'pen. A healthy Andrew Miller makes the Cardinals' bullpen better. But if the club wants to use him as a closer, then who is that steady lefty that can come in earlier in games to get a big out? And if the team deploys him in that spot, then what happens in the ninth? There has been some hesitancy to anoint Jordan Hicks as a ready closer, but if the Cards want to maintain flexibility with Miller's role, Hicks is going to have to be called upon to save games.

What will John Gant's role be?
-- Nate B. (@NathanielABalk), via Twitter

Gant is in an interesting spot this spring, as he enters the season as an out-of-options guy. That means if he does not have a place on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster, another club can pluck him from the waiver wire.
So where does that leave him? He'll be a strong candidate to slide into the rotation if one of the five projected starting pitchers is hurt or ineffective this spring. Otherwise, look for Gant to be a strong candidate for a bullpen spot so the Cards can at least hang onto him a while longer.

What kind of contract do you think would be in play for Paul Goldschmidt, as in years/money? From all accounts, he just seems to fit the mold as a Cardinal player. He reminds me of Matt Holliday -- professional, very good ballplayer/person, committed, a gamer. Sign him up …
-- Kevin B. (@kwb625), via Twitter
There aren't a lot of great comps to pull for Goldschmidt, an elite, power-hitting first baseman who has also profiled as an above-average defender and baserunner over his career. But we can identify a few for this exercise.
We'll start with the eight-year, $144 million contract Eric Hosmer signed last February. He's not as good a player as Goldschmidt, but he also signed that contract at age 28. Goldschmidt will be 32 at the end of the season. Freddie Freeman is a more equal comparison as far skill set is concerned, and he's entering the final three years of an eight-year extension he signed with Atlanta. Freeman will average $21.7 million over the next three years, but at the ages of 29, 30 and 31 years old. Then there's Joey Votto, who, already 35 years old, is still due to make $25 million annually for the next five seasons.
Given Goldschmidt's age and the fact this is his first foray into free agency, I'd suspect he'll seek a deal covering four or five years. And though age (and current free-agency trends) aren't necessarily on his side, Goldschmidt's career production would suggest that he'll warrant a commitment of between $20-25 million a year. One strategy the Cardinals could use is to sign him to an extension during the season that increases his salary for this year. That could potentially save them some money on the back end of the deal.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.