ST. LOUIS -- Finalizing a trade for Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on Wednesday did not complete the Cardinals' offseason work, but it does begin to clarify roles and fits for many of his new teammates.For Matt Carpenter, the impact is particularly noteworthy. He'll be shifted back to third base, a spot
ST. LOUIS -- Finalizing a trade for Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt on Wednesday did not complete the Cardinals' offseason work, but it does begin to clarify roles and fits for many of his new teammates.
For Matt Carpenter, the impact is particularly noteworthy. He'll be shifted back to third base, a spot where he started 76 games last season. He'll also have more potent protection behind him in the lineup.
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Carpenter is projected to return as the Cardinals' leadoff hitter, while Marcell Ozuna is likely to once again hit from the cleanup spot. Goldschmidt will bat somewhere between the two. Jose Martinez and/or Paul DeJong could fill the other opening in the top half of the lineup, as both did at times last year. William Fowler may elbow his way into the discussion, too, if he were to have a bounce-back season.
The Cardinals are especially desperate for increased production from the No. 3 hole, a place where Goldschmidt had slotted in for the majority of his career. Over the last three seasons, the Cardinals have ranked 25th or worse annually in OPS from that place in the lineup.
Goldschmidt has a career .299/.408/.530 slash line hitting third.
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On the defensive side, Carpenter's slide across the diamond gives the Cardinals certainty at every infield spot. DeJong and Kolten Wong will handle the middle-infield assignments, with Wong and Goldschmidt representing two of the best defensive players at their respective positions. Goldschmidt is a three-time National League Gold Glove Award winner.
Not only will the Cardinals feature elite defense on the right side of the infield, but they also can boast of having one of the most decorated defensive catchers of all time in Yadier Molina, and one of the game's top defensive center fielders in Harrison Bader.
A club that had the worst fielding percentage in baseball last season looks better on paper heading into 2018.
The subtractions of pitcher Luke Weaver and catcher Carson Kelly will only slightly alter plans for next season as well. Weaver had been among a group of about 10 pitchers expected to compete for rotation spots. Kelly was penciled in to open the year as the backup catcher, a role the Cards will now have to fill from the outside.
The move also adds to the uncertainty surrounding Jedd Gyorko's fit. He does offer a right-handed complement to Carpenter and Wong, but so would Yairo Munoz. It could be that the Cardinals consider trading Gyorko and filling his spot on the bench with a left-handed bat.
In choosing to improve their offense by adding an infielder, the Cardinals further solidified their plans to let Fowler have the first crack at reclaiming his place as an everyday outfielder. With Martinez and Tyler O'Neill providing depth behind Fowler, the Cards are unlikely to pursue another starting right fielder this winter.
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.