Tommy Edman shows off the glove in every spot

September 7th, 2023

This story was excerpted from John Denton’s Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are unquestionably the two most accomplished and decorated players in the Cardinals clubhouse, but no one commands more respect in that room than 28-year-old defensive whiz  because of his off-the-charts versatility and preparedness.

Take, for example, Tuesday night in Atlanta when Edman -- a former Gold Glove second baseman and a stellar shortstop much of this season -- started in center field and dominated the 10-6 slugfest with his defense. In the second inning, Edman chased down a drive deep into right-center and robbed Marcell Ozuna of extra bases before slamming into the wall. Later in the second, Edman sprinted forward, vaulted his body parallel to the ground and made a diving catch that likely saved two runs. According to Statcast, Edman covered 90 feet going back on the first catch and some 63 feet scampering forward on the second grab.

Starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, the benefactor of Edman’s defense, was in awe of what he had just seen from the 5-foot-10, 180-pound converted center fielder.

“He’s won a Gold Glove at second base, but he might be one of the best center fielders I’ve ever seen,” Mikolas raved. “I mean, he made some incredible plays and he tracks a fly ball better than anyone I’ve ever seen. What he does all around the diamond is really special.”

In addition to hitting 12 home runs and last week’s walk-off smash against All-Star closer Josh Hader, Edman has bounced around between second base (36 games), shortstop (46 games), center field (37 games) and right field (eight games) defensively. The Cardinals knew he was unquestionably one of their best infielders, but he also dazzled with his play in center field. He played there one inning in 2019 and five innings in 2022 before being forced into action there because of injuries to Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar. Not only has Edman not made an error over 275 2/3 innings in center, he has five Outs Above Average, per Statcast -- a number that is tied for 16th among all MLB center fielders despite playing just 31.9 percent of his games at that position.

Edman admitted recently that he’s even surprised himself with his seamless transition from the infield to the outfield. Oddly enough, he credits the work he’s done during batting practice -- both when he was in college at Stanford and in the bigs with the Cardinals -- with helping him be so instinctual in center field.

“I was surprised with how quickly I was able to feel comfortable out there,” said Edman, who might be a favorite to win the NL Utility Gold Glove award -- one that teammate Brendan Donovan captured in 2022. “The first couple of games, I was like, ‘Let’s see how this goes.’ I was really trying to stay focused out there and it felt like it came pretty naturally. After a few games, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve been out here forever.’ I think I was just surprised how quickly I felt comfortable.”

Edman has been so solid in center that he might have changed the calculus about which position he can bring the most worth to the Cardinals. Is he better suited as a utility ace capable of handling several positions? Or should the Cardinals leave him solely in center field and see if he can snag another Gold Glove?

“You’re constantly evaluating what’s the best way to put these pieces together going into next year,” Cards manager Oliver Marmol said. “[Edman] has made a case for a couple of different options. There’s not a really good answer to [where Edman is most valuable]. He changes the game out there [in center] and he’s also the best second baseman here.”

With Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson making approximately $100 million in salary this season, per, after signing lucrative free-agent deals, one might think Edman would prefer to stick at shortstop. But he’s ready for whatever the Cards want him to play in 2023, he said.

“Every year, it seems like I’ve had at least two stretches where I’ve been playing a different position,” he said. “If that’s what makes me valuable to the team, then that’s important.”