ST. LOUIS -- Shortly before word leaked out to the public about the agreement the Cardinals had reached to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, the news traveled to Texas. Matt Carpenter received it with a giddiness still evident as he relayed the story six weeks later.But it also came with
ST. LOUIS -- Shortly before word leaked out to the public about the agreement the Cardinals had reached to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, the news traveled to Texas. Matt Carpenter received it with a giddiness still evident as he relayed the story six weeks later.
But it also came with a corresponding request: Was he prepared to move across the diamond?
"I'm ready to go," Carpenter answered. "Let's do this. I mean, we got Paul Goldschmidt! I'll play wherever to accommodate that."
In what's become seemingly an annual shuffle, Carpenter's defensive position will change yet again. Drafted as a third baseman, he broke into the Majors as a utility man, earned his first All-Star invitation as a second baseman and finished 2018 as an everyday first baseman. Carpenter now heads back to third -- the position at which he has the most career appearances (528), but also, arguably, the largest number of lingering questions.
Carpenter accepts the skepticism, as well as the chance to eradicate it.
"I kind of have a chip on my shoulder for that position," Carpenter said. "I feel like I have something to prove over there. I want to show not only our team, but the rest of baseball, that I can do a good job over there. I'm looking forward to that."
He has had the benefit of a narrowed focus this time around, as the arrival of Goldschmidt erased any uncertainty as to where Carpenter would fit in 2019. He's been able to tailor his offseason workouts accordingly and began his throwing program earlier than usual.
Though Carpenter hasn't abandoned his unorthodox throwing motion, he is hopeful that a head start will give him time to build enough arm strength to handle the demands of playing third for a full season. He hasn't started more than 74 games at the position since making a career-high 141 starts there in 2015.
That year he finished at minus-10 Defensive Runs Saved. Only two everyday third basemen -- Pablo Sandoval and Yunel Escobar -- struggled more, according to that metric. The troubles Carpenter had defensively in 2015 are fresh enough for some to doubt how seamless a transition this next defensive move will be for the 33-year-old.
If there's a counterargument, though, it's that Carpenter is coming off his best defensive year. He rated as having six DRS in 74 starts at third last season.
"I thought he did a great job at third," manager Mike Shildt said. "[He] more than held his own, [and] the metrics support it. He gets a lot of action over there, and he's moved around a little bit and was willing to do that. And it's good to have him be an anchor at third a little bit more. I'm excited about Carp. And I think he's going to do great stuff for us across the board."
While his defense will attract scrutiny, there are also offensive objectives. They begin with consistency. Though his 2018 numbers placed him among the most productive hitters in the National League, the output varied on the time of year.
He had an OPS of .558 through his first 35 games and a mark of .643 over the last 42. It was in between that Carpenter caught fire, hitting 30 homers, 27 doubles and scoring 69 runs in a span of 79 games. His OPS over that stretch reached 1.154.
The first topic he broached with new hitting coach Jeff Albert this winter was how to reduce that disparity.
"Making it to where maybe my highs aren't as high and my lows definitely aren't as low," Carpenter explained. "You [want to] find a way to kind of meet in the middle with that. I'm certainly looking forward to having a [batting average] that looks a little better than .150 at the end of April."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.