How does Edman’s health affect Cards’ defense?

January 18th, 2024

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.

Speaking strictly in terms of defense, is both the Cardinals’ most valuable and most versatile player. And, yes, he gets the nod over 2022 utility Gold Glover Brendan Donovan because of Edman’s elite capabilities at shortstop and center field -- arguably the two most physically demanding defensive positions outside of catching.

So how worried then should the Cardinals be that Edman -- their stated starting center fielder in the season ahead -- hasn’t taken a complete swing or cut loose a full throw since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist in October? How concerned should they be that Edman was the one incumbent player they were unable to reach a contract agreement with and are likely headed to an arbitration hearing against? How concerned should they be considering that Edman is their break-glass-if-necessary fallback option at shortstop if top prospect Masyn Winn struggles at the plate? Also, there’s this: If Edman is slowed in Spring Training -- and all indications are that that will be the case -- how much does it open the door for fast-rising prospect Victor Scott II, who could be the franchise’s future in center field?

Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak revealed recently to that Edman needed offseason surgery on a wrist that had bothered him since the beginning of the 2022 season. Edman said earlier this week at the Cardinals Care Winter Warm-up that the surgery was to address cartilage and bone issues in the aching wrist that landed him on the injured list for three weeks last July and bothered him throughout the 2023 season.

“I’m very confident I’ll be ready for the season,” said Edman, who recently shed the cast he’s been wearing to protect the wrist. “We’ll see what spring looks like. I think hitting will be the big step, because there are so many steps that go along with it. You’ve got to [hit off the] tee, then soft toss, and then [batting practice], and then [off the pitching] machine and getting into games. Again, we’ll take that day by day, figure out each step as my wrist responds to each thing.”

That’s not exactly ideal for a Cardinals club that is looking to Edman to once again steady an outfield that struggled on the defensive side of the ball last season. Rookie Jordan Walker understandably had trouble in his first season as a converted outfielder, Opening Day center fielder Tyler O’Neill couldn’t stay healthy (and has since been traded), and Lars Nootbaar did his best to fill the gap in center even though he is ideally a corner outfielder.

It wasn’t until Edman -- who had previously bounced between second base and shortstop with great aplomb -- was installed as the everyday center fielder that the defense finally stabilized. How good was Edman, a career infielder, in center field in a short burst? According to, Edman had plus-three Defensive Runs Saved in center field, while the other six Cardinals who played there had a negative-four combined. Already a Gold Glove winner at second base in 2021, Edman’s versatility in ‘23 helped make him a utility Gold Glove finalist for a second straight season.